Tag Archives: Katapayadi

Nabhi -Vidya: Part Three

Continued from Part Two


In Part two, we read about the 24 Mantras of the Purvanga-Vidya; arranged in three sets, each having 8 Mantras  (3×8)

In the present part (Part Three), let’s look at the eight Mantras of the Raja-Vidya; and 4 Mantras of the Nrupathi-Vidya (8+4 =12).  These together with the 24 Mantras of the Purvanga-Vidya (24+12 = 36) form the main body of the Nabhi-Vidya.

Further, we will also talk about the four independent Mantras (Mantras from 37 to 40): Matruka; Guru-natha-paduka; Baala; and Para. With these, we would be completing 40 Mantras of the Nabhi-Vidya

And, there is The Epilogue (Uttara-bhaga), which appears following the 40 Mantras, instructing the ardent Sadhaka to chant (Japa) the Mantras, structured as per the formats of the Kadi and Hadi-Vidya-s, as many times as possible (Yethah Vidyaya yatha-shakthi-japet-nityam) – at least a hundred times in a day.

And, in the Phala-sruthi, it is assured that Nabhi-Vidya is so powerful as that reciting the Nabhi-Vidya once is equivalent to repetition (Japa) of the Pancha-dashi Mantra one Lakh times.  It would also bestow prosperity both here (Iha) and in hereafter (Para); and, will also grant the unshakable (a-chanchala) Self-knowledge (Atma-jnana).

Devi Yantra by Pieter Weltevrede

Raja-Vidya and Nrupathi-Vidya

The terms Raja (राजा) and Nrupathi (नृपति) the Lord of men, both refer to the Kings. In the context of the Puranas, the Kings of the bygone eras are counted as sixteen. According to some, these sixteen Kings or Royal Sages are:

(1) Gaya;(2) Ambarisha;(3) Shashi-bindu;(4) Anga;(5) Pruthu; (6) Maruthi;(7) Sahrothra; (8) Parasurama;(9) Sri Rama; (10) Bharatha;(11) Dilipa;(12) Brighu;(13) Ranthideva;(14) Hayashi;(15) Mandatha; and, (16) Bhagiratha.

The number Sixteen also indicates the sixteen lettered Shodashi-Mantra.

Nabhi vidya drawing

The Raja-Vidya (8) and Nrupathi Vidya (4) together have twelve Mantras.

In the Key-sloka, appearing at the beginning, the terms Sthana (Breasts) and Yugma (a pair or twice) are used (Bala pica ru-ru yugmam Raja-vidyaya shtanabha). These terms hold out various suggestions.

These imply that the Mantras involve both the Shodashi and Para-Shodashi-Mantras; the Kadi and Hadi Vidya and the mixture of the twos; and, also the repetition of the Hrllekha (Hrim) at the end of each Kuta.

Accordingly, there will be three types of Shodashi-Mantras: as in the Kadi, Hadi and in the combination of both (Kadi-Hadi).

Similarly, the Para-Shodashi-Mantra will be of another three types: in Kadi, Hadi and the combinations of the both (Kadi-Hadi).

Thus, the Shodashi-Mantra for three times; and also, Para-Shodashi mantra for three times (a total of 6 times) will have to recited.

These along with the repletion of the Hrllekha at the end of each Kuta (2), will together amount to 12 (3x2x2) Mantras of the Raja-Vidya and the Nrupathi-Vidya.  

These 12 of Raja-Vidya and Nrupathi-Vidya, together with the 24 of the Purvanga-Vidya, will amount to 36.

Design Pieter Weltevrede


As per the text of the Nabhi-Vidya, the eight Mantras of the Raja-Vidya (numbering from 25 to 32), are composed of the Shodashi and Para-Shodashi Mantras, according to both the Kadi and Hadi Vidyas, in their proper order. Each has to be rendered twice.

The Hrllekha (ह्रीँ) will appears twice at the end of the second rendering of the Kadi-Shodashi; Kadi-Para-Shodashi; Hadi-Shodashi; and, Hadi-Para-Shodashi.

Raja Vidya

The expansion of the  formats , prescribed as above, would yield the sets of Mantras as under :

Raja vidya 25 Kadi Shodasi

Raja Vidya 26 Kadi Shodashi Hrllekha dwayam

Raja Vidya 27 Kadi Para Shodashi

Raja Vidya 28 Kadi Para shodasi Hrllekha dwayam

Raja Vidya 29 Hadi Shodashi

Raja Vidya 30 Hadi Shodasi Hrllekha Dwayam

Raja Vidya 32 Hadi Para shodashi Hrllekha Dwayam

[ I acknowledge with gratitude the Source : ]

Devi Yantra by Pieter Weltevrede


As regards the Nrupathi-Vidya – the set of four Mantras from 33 to 36 – it follows a slightly more complicated sequence.

Here, Maha-Shodashi -Mantra of the Kadi-Vidya is first rendered as per its right sequential order (Anuloma); and, that is followed by Maha-Shodashi-Mantra as per the Hadi-Vidya; but, in its reverse order (Viloma).  

The, Maha-Shodashi-Mantra of the Kadi-Vidya is rendered in its regular order (Anuloma); and is then followed by its Hadi-Vidya version; but, in its reverse order (Viloma). At the end the Hrllekha (ह्रीँ) is repeated (Dvyam).

Next, the Para-Shodashi-Mantra of the Hadi-Vidya in its proper order (Anuloma); and then its Kadi-Vidya version in its reverse order (Viloma): Nrupathi yuga vathamsa.

And, finally, Para-Shodashi-Mantra of Hadi-Vidya is rendered in its regular order (Anuloma); and, that is followed by its Kadi-Vidya version; but, in reverse order (Viloma). And, the Hrllekha (ह्रीँ)) will appear twice (Dvyam) at the end.

There would, thus, be four Mantras in the Nrupathi-Vidya.

[There is a faith that by rendering a Mantra in Anuloma; and following it up with Viloma will enhance its power]

Nrpathi Vidya

As per the above format , the composition of the Nrupathi-Vidya-Mantras would be as under :

Nrupathi Vidya 33 Kadi Anuloma Hadi Viloma Shodashi

Nrpathi Vidya 24 Kadi Anuloma Hadi Viloma

Nrupathi Vidya 35 Hadi Anuloma Kadi Viloma

Devi Yantra by Pieter Weltevrede


The number 36 is said to have a symbolic significance. These are said to represent the 36 Tattva-s, the elements or the building blocks of the created world (Prapancha);

36 tattvas

The 37th Mantra (Matrika-vidya) is said to symbolize the emergence of the created world; following the principle of Pancikarana (पञ्चीकरण), which is the creation of the elements (bhūtasarga) by a process in which subtle matter transforms itself into gross matter.

The 38th Mantra (Guru-Natha-Vidya) represents the appearance of the Maha-Guru in the presence of the Sadhaka, the Devotee.

The 39th Mantra (Baala-Vidya) is the initiation (Upadesha) into the Baala-mantra, the primary Mantra of the Srividya Upasana.

And, the 40th Mantra (Para-Vidya) is the culmination, the highest bliss, the realization of the identity with the Supreme Mother Principle.


There is also the concept of Adhvan (अध्वन्). The term Adhvan (अध्वन्) refers to the path or to the hierarchy of levels (of emanation as also of withdrawal). it is either the path on which one treads; or the path which one must discard.

The six ways in which the Absolute manifests Itself in the process of creation (aadhvan). Each of them represents a different aspect of energy. Each path consists of a particular number of entities which lead to the successive stages in the evolutionary process, from the most subtle to the gross. In reverse order, from the gross to the subtle, they symbolize the process of involution (or, Sahāra) and serve as a means of attaining liberation or reintegration.

The combination of all of these six Adhvan-s: the three objective Adhvan-s; and, the three subjective Adhvan-s is called Shad-adhvan, the sixfold Adhvan-s. The six Adhvan-s (Shad-adhvan) are said to be grouped in two sets; each having three Adhvan-s:

(1) An internal path, utilizing linguistics to represent inner realities (Vara-adhvan, Pada-adhvan, Mantra-adhvan)

The Matrka-akshara is said to correspond to Varna-adhvan (syllable or alphabet). The different Kuta combinations will show the Pada-adhva (the word-formation); and, the combinations of all these Padas are seen in the Greatest Shodashi Mantra revealing the Mantra-adhva.

This course of the threefold Adhvan-s is called Vācyā-adhva (Sentence). The term Vācya also means ‘that which is observed, seen, realized’.

(2) And an external path, representing the structure of the objective universe (Bhuvanā-adhva, Tattva-adhvan, Kaala-adhva). The pathway of the worlds (Bhuvanādhvan); the pathway of elements (Tattvādhvan); and, the pathway leading through multiple phases (Kalādhvan)

These Adhvan-s (first Bhuvanā, then Tattvā and finally Kaalā) are hierarchically graded as gross (sthūla), subtle (sūkma), and, subtlest (para). The gross path is called Bhuvanā-dhva; the subtle path Tattvā-dhva; and, the subtlest path Kalā-dhva.

The 36 Tattvas (elements) are said to be the building blocks of creation. Their complete system is called Tattva-adhvan: the course of all elements. This path is subtle (sūkma).

The path (Adhvan), which is more refined than Tattva-adhvan is Kaala-adhva.   This path is the subtlest; and, encompasses all the thirty-six elements.

It is said; the LaghuShodashi; the Maha-Shodashi; and, the Para-Shodashi Mantras will lead the Devotee to realize the Kaala-adhva.

 devi 2222

Following the 36 Mantras of the Nabhi-Vidya (24-Purvanaga Vidya + 8-Raja Vidya + 4 Nrupathi Vidya), come four independent Mantras: (1) Matrika-Vidya; (2) Natha-Vidya (Sri Maha-Paduka); (3) Baala Mantra; and, (4) Para-Vidya.  All these together make the 40 Mantras of the Nabhi-Vidya.

It is said; the 36 Mantras of the Purvanga-Vidya, Raja-Vidya and the Nrupathi-Vidya, essentially, pray for the removal of ignorance and the emergence of true knowledge. The next four Mantras are about experience of the world through sounds; the emergence of divine grace in the form of the Guru; his initiation into Bala-Mantra; and, the realization of the highest state ‘Para’. Thus, the Nabhi-Vidya traces the path of the Sadhana, in all its phases, to attain liberation.


Matruka (मातृका) Vidya

In Tantra, the fifty or fifty-one letters including vowels as well as consonants from A to Ksha, of the Devanagari alphabet, the Varnamala, are believed to be the Matrikas themselves. It is believed that they are infused with the power of the Divine Mother herself. The Matrikas are considered to be the subtle form of the letters (varna). These letters, combined, make up syllables (pada), which are put together to make a sentence (vakya).  And, it is of these elements that a mantra is composed. It is believed that the power of mantra derives from the fact that the letters of the alphabet are, in fact, forms of the goddess.

Matrika or Matruka (मातृका) is the collective term for all letters and sounds. They are Mother-like; because, they form the basis or the source for all forms of knowledge as also of the planes of existence (Lokas). Matrika-s are the subtle form of force that is behind every thought, speech and Mantra.

It is said; the Matrika is the binding energy that makes it possible to understand words or symbols strung together as language. The text Siva-Sutra defines Matrika as ‘the ground of all knowledge’ (jñānādhisthāna-mātrikā– Shiva Sutra:1-4).

And in Shaktha traditions, Matrikas, the sounds, their vibrations and the combination of vibrations interacting with one another is regarded as   Matrika-Shakthi, the creative energies that manifest. It is believed that they are infused with the power of the Divine Mother herself; and, are, in fact, the varied forms of the Mother-goddess.

The Matrika-Shakthi is also said to be the power of sound that is the matrix of the cosmos; and, manifests as the letters in the alphabet. All things are forms of that creative energy, the Matrika Shakthi, which is never separate from Shiva, the Absolute.

It is also said; in the Matrika Chakra, the sixteen vowels from ‘a’ to ‘ah’ represent the energies of Shiva. And their unity with Matrika ‘m’ creates the universal mantra of Shiva ‘Aham’.


In Tantra, Sri, revered as Devi, is Matrika, the Mother (Matrika-mayi), the Supreme Mother Goddess (Deveem Mataram Sriyam). She is also the power of sound (Matrika Shakti) , the matrix of the cosmos manifest as the alphabets. The phrase ‘Suvarna-rajata-srajaam’ is also understood to mean that Sri is adorned with Matrika-Mala, the garland of letters/alphabets woven with vowels (Suvarna) and consonants (Rajata). Sri is thus Mantra-mayi, the origin; and, the essence of all Mantras.

The Mātka deities (divine mothers) are associated with every letter of the Sanskrit alphabet and represent a certain energy or set of energies and denote various characteristics inherent in the power of the respective alphabet.


The Matrika-Mantra, as it appears in the Nabhi-Vidya (as Mantra number 37), reads:

ॐ श्रीं ह्रीं ऐं क्लीं सौः ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं  / अँ आँ इँ ईँ  उँ ऊँ …. ळँ क्षँ सौः ऐं  क्लीं  ह्रीं श्रीं  //

Om srim hrim klim sauh hrim srim / am̐ ām̐ im̐ īm̐ um̐ ūm̐ … ḻam̐ kṣam̐ sauh  aim klim hrim srim  

The Matrika-Mantra is, essentially, a prayer, a submission to the Supreme Mother Goddess seeking her blessings to help overcome one’s deficiencies; to grant divine grace and pardon; to expand one’s consciousness; to energise; to grant emancipation; and, to realize one’s true identity with the Mother Goddess.

Guru Paduka 2

Natha-Vidya (Sri Maha-paduka)

 Guru-paduka is a mantra that brings the grace of the Guru on the initiate. During the process of initiation (dīkṣhā) , the names of the three generations of  Gurus are revealed to the disciple. Three Gurus that are worshipped in the Guru-paduka-mantra are: one’s own Guru; Guru’s Guru (Parama -Guru); and, that Guru’s Guru (Parameṣṭhi Guru).

[The term Paduka is at times interpreted to mean the state of equilibrium (Samarasya) between the principles of Siva-Shakthi]

One’s own Guru enlightens the disciple about the nature of the Self. The Parama-Guru make one to reflect on the teachings of the Guru; and, realize its glory. The Parameṣṭhi Guru will enable the ardent disciple to experience the divine bliss of the self, while the disciple is still being in her/his body.

There are different mantras for the Guru, the Paramaguru and the Parameṣṭhi Guru. At the time of initiation, the Guru, apart from initiating a mantra, also gives Guru-pādukā-mantra.


The Guru-pādukā -mantra is given for the worship of the Guru who is initiating the disciple.

  The Mahā-pādukkā Mantra as per the Natha-vidya of the Nabhi- Vidya reads:

श्रीं  ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं सौः  ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं  /  हंसः  सोहं  हसक्षमलवरयूं   / सौः  क्लीं  ऐं  सहक्षमलवरयीं  हंसः सोहं हंसः / श्री गुरु नाथय नमः॥

śrī hrī klī ai sau hrī śrī / hasa soha hasakamalavarayū / sau klī sahakamalavarayī  hasa soha hasa / Sri Guru-nathaya namaha //


At the end of the Guru-Mandala, salutations are submitted to the lineage of the Gurus (Guru-Parampara), beginning from the Adi-Guru, the ever-auspicious Lord Sadashiva; in the midst of which Sri Shankaracharya; and, thereon up to my Guru. I pay my obeisance to all the Gurus.

Sadāśivasam-ārambhā śakarācārya-madhyamā | Asmad-ācārya-paryanta vande Guru paraparā ||

सदाशिवसमारम्भां शंकराचार्यमध्यमां। अस्मदाचार्यपर्यन्तं वन्दे गुरु परंपरां॥



The Bala-mantra is the basic mantra of the Sri Vidya Upasana.  When an ardent devotee is initiated into the Srividya, the Guru, initially, teaches her / him the worship of the young Bala-Sundari, with Bala-mantra of three Bijakshara-s: Aim (ऐँ -Vac-Bija); Klim (क्लीँ Kamaraja-Bija); and, Sau (सौः -Shakthi-Bija): (Aim of speech, Klim of wish; and Sauh of Shakthi).

Vac-bhavam Prathama-Bijam / Kamarajam Dwithiyakam / Trithiyam Shakthi-Kutakhyam / Nigama tri-yodhrutham/ Ittham Kumari-Vidya Bija-trayam-udiritham //

Its Rishi is Sri Dakshinamurthi; its Chhandas is Gayatri; and, its Deity (Devatha) is Baala-Tripura-Sundari. Ai bīja; Sau śhakti; klī kīlakam.


After the practice of this Mantra for a considerable length of time, the devotee is lead into the fifteen -lettered Pancha-dashi-Mantra. Thereafter, the Sadhaka practices the sixteen-letters Shodashi-Mantra; the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra and the Para-Shodashi -Mantra, for the worship of Tripura-Sundari. . From thereafter, the Sadhaka gains authority to practice the most secret and more complicated modes of Srividya-sadhanas.


Apart for its basic form, the Baala-mantra is said to have two others

Bālā-tripura-sundarī -mantra of six Bījākara-s

 – ऐंक्लींसौःसौःक्लीं ऐं

(om – ai – klī – sau — sau – klī – ai)


Bālā-navākarī-mantra of nine Bījākara-s

 – ऐंक्लींसौःसौःक्लींऐंऐंक्लीं सौः

( Om – ai – klī – sau — sau – klī – ai — ai – klī – sau)

  Bālā navākarī mantra is one of the most powerful mantras in Śrī Vidyā Upasana.


The Baala-Mantra, as it appears in the text of the Nabhi-Vidya, composed of three Bījākaras ऐं – क्लीं – सौः (ai – klī – sau) reads:

ऐं ऐं ऐं / क्लीं क्लीं क्लीं /  सौः सौः सौः  ऐं //

ai ai ai / klī klī klī / sau sau sau  ai //

The Bīja ऐं (ai), known as Vāg-bhava-bīja, helps in attaining true knowledge. The second Bīja क्लीं (klī), known as Kāma-bīja, ignites the desire to attain Her feet; and, the third Bīja isसौः (sau), also known as Parabīja, is regarded as the Mantra of the Supreme Goddess Parā-śhaktī. This Bīja energises the aspirant to realize her/his true Self.



The Supreme (Anuttar-tattva) Mantra which is beyond mundane explanations; the culmination of all the Upadesha-s; and, one which leads to supreme bliss, is said to be the Para-Mantra. The text of the Nabhi-Vidya concludes with the Para-Mantra.

   श्रीं  सौः श्रीं (Om-Srim-Sauh-Srim-Om)

Devi Yantra by Pieter Weltevrede

Uttara-bhagha (Epilogue)

The Uttara-bhagha (Epilogue) contains a series of Mantras for contemplation on and worship of the Rishis (Rishyadi-manasa-pujyanta-vidya).  And, in the Devi-Puja-kalpa there are details of the worship-procedures (Kara-nyasa, Anga-nyasa, Dhyana-slokas etc) for the Sadhana of the Srividya Shodasha-akshari; Srividya Maha-Shodasha-akshari; and Srividya Para-Shodasha-askshari Mantras.

 It is assured one who practices (Japa-Sadhana) the sacred Nabhi-Mantra, with utmost diligence and dedication (नित्यं जपे विनियोगः), to the best one’s ability (Yatha-shakthi), will undoubtedly achieve the most fabulous results – एतद् विद्याय ध्यान यथा-शक्ति जपेत्.

And, in the Phala-sruthi, it is assured that Nabhi-Vidya is so powerful as that reciting the Nabhi-Vidya once is equivalent to repetition (Japa) of the Pancha-dashi Mantra one Lakh times.  It would also bestow prosperity both here (Iha) and in hereafter (Para); and, will also grant the unshakable (a-chanchala) Self-knowledge (Atma-jnana).

lotus offering

Asya Sri Nabhi-Vidya Maha -Mantrasysa Ananda-Bhairava-Rishihi / Amruta-Virat-Gayatri-Chandhaha / Sri-Maha-Tripura-Sundari Raja-Rajeshwari Devatha / Aim, Bijam / Sau Shakthi-hi / Klim kilakam / Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari Anugraha-prasada sidyarthe jape-viniyogaha //Balaya-nyasaha / Lalithyadi Pancha Puja //




मस्त सन् मंगलानि भवंतु  / लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनोभवंतु

र्वे सन्तु निरामयाः सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः

भवंतावश्विनौ भवंति भवंतु भवंतो भवंतौ 

मंगल मंगलं मंगलः मंगलस्य मंगला मंगलाः

तत् सत्

शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः |


श्री महात्रिपुरसुन्दरीये  नमः

lotus red


Sources and References

  1. The Tantra of Sri Chakra by Prof. S.K. Ramachandra Rao (Sharada Prakashana, Bangalore,1983)
  2. .Srividya Shodasha-Maha-Mantramulu by Dr. Krovi Parthasarathy (Vijayawada-2020)
  3. Nabhi-Vidya (Short Works)
  4. Nabhi-Vidya ( a discussion)  by Purnananda Lahiri


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Posted by on January 31, 2022 in Nabhi Vidya, Sri Vidya


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Nabhi Vidya -Part Two


Nabhi Vidya -Part Two

Continued from Part One

Shiva shakthi

Just to recapitulate,

As mentioned in the Earlier Part, Nabhi-vidya is one of the lesser-known texts of the Sri Vidya tradition. There is no definite information either about its date or its author.

Its text is in the traditional format of conversation (Samvada); and, it takes place between Sri Hayagriva and Sage Agastya. And, it is, by no means, a lucid text; and, is not easy either to understand or to follow. It calls for enormous effort, discipline and dedication, over a long period of time, to practice Nabhi-Vidya-Sadhana. Further, since the Nabhi-Vidya is associated with the Vama-achara modes of worship, it is not in common practice either.

The Nabhi-Vidya, basically, is related to Shodashi-Maha-Shodashi-Mantras; which bestow true knowledge and leads to liberation (Jnana-prada, Moksha-karaka). It is hailed as the most sacred, secretive and powerful Mantra.

In the Nabhi -Vidya, the Shodashi, Maha- Para-Shodashi Mantras of Hadi Vidya, Kadi Vidya and Hadi-Kadi Vidya are mixed and combined in various patterns; out of which, 36 Mantras are generated.

In the Purva-bagha a total of 24 Mantras are elucidated, in three sections; with eight Mantras in each section. These set of 24 Mantras are called as Purvanga-Vidya. This is followed by Raja-Vidya (8 Mantras); and, Nrupathi-Vidya (4 Mantras). These amount to 36 Mantras (24+8+4).

The Mantras from 37 to 40 are four independent Mantras (Matruka; Guru-natha-paduka; Baala; and Para). Thus, there are, in all, 40 Mantras in the Nabhi-Vidya (Matruka, Natha, Baala, Para-yuvathi sametha pathu maam Nabhi-vidyaya ).

The Nabhi-vidya is a compilation of a varied sets of Mantras, related to Srividya, arranged according to a pre-determined order. The Nabhi-Vidya, primarily and essentially, is meant for practice (Sadhana) of Srividya.  There is not much philosophical discussion or theoretical speculation here.

The Epilogue (Uttara-bhaga), which appears following the 40 Mantras, instructs the ardent Sadhaka to chant (Japa) the recommended sets of Mantras, structured as per the formats of the Kadi and Hadi Vidyas, as many times as possible (Yethah Vidyaya yatha-shakthi-japet-nityam) – at least a hundred times in a day.

And, in the Phala-sruthi, it is assured that Nabhi-Vidya is so powerful as that reciting the Nabhi-Vidya once is equivalent to repetition (Japa) of the Pancha-dashi Mantra one Lakh times.  It would also bestow prosperity both here (Iha) and in hereafter (Para); and, will also grant the unshakable (a-chanchala) Self-knowledge (Atma-jnana).




The Nabhi-Vidya-Dhyana-Sloka, which appears at the commencement of the text, provides the key to its structure; as also to the composition and the arrangement of the verses within it.

The Purvanga-Vidya, the first Part of the Nabhi-Vidya, is composed of three sets, each having eight Mantras (3×8). The clue to its structure is given in the following Dhyana-sloka.

Dhyana sloka

Here, the Katapayadi technique of hashing comes into play; where, certain alphabets carry their numerical values.

Pi (1); Ka (1); Ru (2); Ru (2); Ba (3); La (3):

 It would then read as: 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3.

This relates to the Shodashi-Mantra.

As can be seen, the numerical 1 (one) appears twice. Of these, the first one (1) is said to be associated with the Bija of the Vac (Vac-bija- Aim); and, the latter (1) with Kuta of Vac (Vac-kuta). The sequence would then read as: Aim, Ka, Ye, Ee, La, Hrim. This sequence indicates the first segment of the Shodashi Mantra.

The numeral 2 (two) appears twice. Of these, the first instance of 2 indicates the Bija of Kamaraja (kamaraja-bija- Klim); and, the second (2), the Kamaraja kuta. And, this could be read as Klim, Ha, Sa, Ka, Ha, La, Hrim

The numeral 3 (three) also appears twice. Of these, the first 3 is said be associated with the Bija of the Shakthi (Sau); and, the latter one (3) with the Shakthi Kuta. And, it would then read as: Sau, Sa, Ka, La, Hrim

At the end of these sequences, the Bijakshara Srim would appear.


The combination of the three Kutas results in the sixteen-lettered Shodashi-Mantra, as per the Kadi-Vidya. While repeating; the first Kuta will not have its Hllekha (हृल्लेख)Hrim (ह्रीं).

The following would the resultant sequence of the Bijakshara of the Shodashi Mantra as per the Kadi and Hadi Vidyas.

Kadi: Aim, Ka, Ye, Ee, La, Hrim / Klim, Ha, Sa, Ka, Ha, La, Hrim / Sau, Sa, Ka, La, Hrim

ऐं ह्रीं / क्लीं ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / सौः स क ल ह्रीं / श्रीं

Hadi: Aim- Ha-Sa-Ka-La Hrim / Klim- Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La- Hrim / Sauh- Sa-Ka-La/ Hrim … Srim

ऐं ह्रीं / क्लीं   ह्रीं / सौः ह्रीं / श्रीं


Then, there is the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra, which in fact is composed of 28 Aksharas. Here, the Panchadashi-Mantra of 15 syllables is preceded by 8 letters regarded as Om- kara -pranavas; and, succeeded by 5 letters regarded as Shakthi-pranavas (8+15+5 =28).

Srim, Hrim, Klim, Aim, Sauh; (2) Aum, Hrim, Srim; (3) Ka-Ye-Ee-La-Hrim; (4) Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La- Hrim; (5) Sa-Ka-La- Hrim; and, (6) Sauh, Aim, Klim, Hrim, Srim

श्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं सौः (5 bīja-s) / ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं (3 bīja-s) / क ए ई ल ह्रीं (5 bīja-s) / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं (6 bīja-s) / स क ल ह्रीं (4 bīja-s) / सौः ऐं क्लीं ह्रीं श्रीं (5 bīja-s )


The opening Dhyana-sloka of the Nabhi-Vidya mentions the term Yugma (युग्म), meaning a pair, two or twice. That is meant to suggest that each Kuta of the Mantra has to be uttered twice. Its first utterance should not have the syllable Hrim (ह्रीं). But, when it is uttered second time it should have the Hrim-kara (ह्रीं), which term is named as Hllekha (हृल्लेख).

Such mode of recitation has to be applied to each Kuta.

The term Yugma (युग्म) is also meant to suggest that each of such pair of utterances have to be made in the Mantras of both the Kadi and the Hadi Vidyas. And, Hrim-kara (ह्रीं) should be uttered twice at the end of each of its Kuta-s. [ क ए ई ल क ए ई ल ह्रीं  ]

In this manner, every Kuta has to be repeated twice – both in their Kadi and Hadi forms.


As per the aforesaid procedures, the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra of the Kadi-Vidya would now be read as:

ऐँ ह्रीँ श्रीँ ऐँ क्लीँ सौः / ऐँ ऐँ / ह्रीँ ह्रीँ / क्लीँ क्लीँ / ह्रीँ ह्रीँ / सौः सौः / ह्रीँ ह्रीँ / श्रीँ श्रीँ / सौः क्लीँ ऐँ / श्रीँ ह्रीँ ऐँ //

Aum- Aim- Hrim- Srim-Aim- Klim-Sauh / Aim- Aim / Ka-Ye-Ee-La Ka-Ye-Ee-La Hrim -Hrim / Klim- Klim / Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La- Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La- Srim- Srim / Sauh- Sauh / Sa-Ka-La- Sa-Ka-La – Hrim – Hrim / Srim- Srim / Sauh- Klim-Aim / Srim- Hrim-Aim-Aum //

The Mantra in the Hadi-Vidya will also have to be repeated in a similar manner.


Now, the opening key sloka mentions the syllable Bha (), indicating the number 4. That is meant to say that the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra has to be repeated four times. Each time, as per both the Kadi and Hadi Vidyas. Then, one would have repeated it 8 (4×2) times. While doing so, at the end of the second rendering in each case, the Hrllekha (ह्रीँ) has to be uttered twice (Hrllekha-dvayam).

Further, these eight forms of the Mantras have to be rendered (1) in the sequential order of their letters (Anuloma); (2) in the reverse order of the letters (Viloma); and, (3) in the mixed order (Anuloma-Viloma). That means, three types of recitations for each of the eight mantras.

That would result in (4×2) = 8 x 3 = 24 Mantras.

stuti kusumanjali

Arrangement of the Purvanga-vidya

According to these sets of complicated instructions, the patterns, the combinations, the arrangements and the contents of the 24 Mantras (in three sets of eight each) of the Purvanga-Vidya of the Nabhi-Vidya would be as under:

Purvanga Vidya

Purvanga Vidya 2

Purvanga Vidya 3


Combinations and Compositions of the Mantras of the Purvanga-Vidya

As per the above-mentioned patterns for arrangement of the Bijakshara-s, the following would be the actual Mantras, in each case:

Purvanga Vidya _kadi sva Anuloma

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Sva Anuloma 2

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Hadi Anuloma 3

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Hadi Anuloma 4

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Hadi Anuloma 5

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Sva Anuloma 6

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Kadi Anuloma 7

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Kadi Anuloma 8

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Sva Anuloma 9

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Sva Anuloma 10


Purvanga Vidya Kadi Anuloma 11

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Anuloma 12

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Anuloma 13

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Sva Anuloma 14

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Anuloma 15

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Anuloma 16

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Sva Anuloma 17

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Sva Viloma 18

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Hadi Viloma 19

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Hadi Viloma 20

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Sva Viloma 21

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Sva Viloma 22

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Kadi Viloma 23

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Kadi Viloma 24

[ I acknowledge with gratitude the Source : ]

sri yantra

In the next part , let us take a look at the Raja-Vidya; Nrupathi -Vidya ; the four Mantras (from 37 to 40) as also at The Epilogue (Uttara-bhaga),

Navadurga 4




Part Three

Sources and References

1.The Tantra of Sri Chakra by Prof. S.K. Ramachandra Rao (Sharada Prakashana, Bangalore,1983)

2.Srividya Shodasha-Maha-Mantramulu by Dr. Krovi Parthasarathy (Vijayawada-2020)

Nabhi-Vidya (Short Works)

Nabhi-Vidya ( a discussion) by Purnananda Lahiri




Posted by on January 31, 2022 in Nabhi Vidya, Sri Vidya


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Nabhi Vidya -Part One


Dec 22, 2021

Please enlighten full details of NABHI-VIDYA.


Dear Sri Murthy

I started this as a reply to your comment. But, since it grew rather lengthy, I am posting it separately, as a blog. Pardon me for the delay in responding.

The subject, to say the least, is rather obscure; its text is also not widely known; and, not many have written about it. And, the manner in which the Nabhi-Vidya has been expounded is, indeed, very complicated.  I have attempted to write about its structure, as I have understood. I am aware, my presentation could be inadequate  at places. Please pardon me.

In case you are deeply interested in the subject, you may treat this as prompter; and, seek further guidance from a truly learned person.

I trust you will have the patience to read through this somewhat tedious post.

OK. Here we go ]

Shodashi Nabhi vidya. 2 jpg


The Nabhi-vidya is one of the lesser-known texts of the Sri Vidya lore. It, basically, is related to Shodashi and MahaShodashi-Mantras; there is also a brief use of the Para-Shodashi-Mantra, the highest, which bestows true knowledge and leads to liberation (Jnana-prada, Mukti-prada). The various combinations of these Mantras, constructed in their regular order (Anuloma) as also in their reverse order (Viloma), as per their formats in the Kadi, Hadi Vidyas and in the mixture of the two (Kadi-Hadi), are hailed as the most sacred, secretive and powerful Mantras.

However, there is no definite information either about its date or its author. And, the text, to say the least, is needlessly made complicated by admixing varieties of Mantra-formats of various Schools; combining them with intricate sets of meters; and, encrypting the verses by resorting to the Katapayadi technique of hashing. It could be interpreted in more than one way.

Nabhi-Vidya is, by no means, a lucid text; and, is not easy either to understand or to follow. It is not a text which expounds a philosophy. It is constructed as a set of Mantras, which the adherent has to earnestly and repeatedly recite (Japa), as a part of her / his Sadhana or Upasana-krama. Further, since the Nabhi-Vidya is associated with the Vama-achara modes of worship, it is not in common practice either.

Its text is in the traditional format of conversation (Samvada); and, it takes place between Sri Hayagriva and Sage Agastya. Here, Agastya requests the most learned (Sarva-shastra-visharada) Guru Hayagriva to impart to him the knowledge about the Self (Atma-jnana), which is pristine, most delightful (Ananda-rasa-sambrutham), eternal; and, unwavering (a-chanchala).

Hayagriva Daya-sindhau, Sarva-shastra-visharada / kena prapnothi niyata-mathma jnanam a-chanchalam / kena samprapnoya sakshmam Ananda-rasa sambrutham //

Then, Guru Hayagriva recounts a similar request made earlier by Devi Sri Parvathi to Lord Shiva, to reveal to her the secret knowledge about his true nature.

Deva-Deva-Mahadeva Sat-chidananda-vigraha / Yad-gopyam tava sarvasvam kathayasva mama-prabhuo //

In response to Devi’s request, the Supreme Lord Mahadeva reveals and teaches Devi Parvathi the ancient and hitherto hidden knowledge, the Nabhi Vidya.

Shrunu Devi pravakshyami rahasyam yad-vachoduna / Gopaniyam prayatnena purna-hanta maya-param //

Shiva teaching Parvathi

Further, Shiva mentions that the rare and precious (Tri-lokya-durlabham) Nabhi-Vidya consists thirty-six mantras (Nabhi-vidyatmakam-divya-shat-trishatu-tattva samkhyakam) representing thirty-six elements (tattva); together with Matruka, Natha, Baala and Para-Vidyas, it amounts to forty mantras (Matruka-Natha-Baalabhir-Paraya saha / chatvarimsat samkhyabhi aakhya Nabhi-iritha). These are arranged in varied combinations following the principles of Kadi and Hadi Vidyas, as indicated cryptically (Rahasya-sanketha).

Pica-ru-ru Bala yugmam kambhuka trimbakabha / Bala pica ru-ru yugmam Raja-vidyaya shtanabha / Nrupathi yuga vathamsa Matruka Natha Baala / Para-yuvathi sametha pathu maam Nabhi-vidyaya //

Dhyana sloka

Later, the Devi teaches Sage Hayagriva the Nabhi Vidya, composed of the Shodashi and Maha-Shodashi Mantras, each of which set to Kadi, Hadi and also to the combinations of the two (Kadi-Hadi). These twenty-four, along with the twelve arrived at with the doubling of the Hrillekhas (Srim- ह्रीं)) at the end of each Kuta (group), amount to thirty-six mantras (Shat-trimshat-tattva-sankhya). And, the other four being explicit Matruka, Natha, Baala and Para Mantras.

And, Hayagriva thereafter initiates Agastya into the sacred and hidden Nabhi-Vidya (Shiva-Shivaa rahsyam cha etad gopyam)

Guru Hayagriva mentions; if the Mantra is practiced earnestly and properly, it will lead to the realization of one’s true Self (Pujayitva yatha-vidhi, nija-swarupam vijnathu Iccha -phalitha manasa)


It is said that the Nabhi-Vidya, being at the center of all the Maha-Mantras, connects the devotee to the Universal Mother (Vishva-matha) Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari; and, seeks her blessings.

The Rishi of the Mantra is Ananda-Bhairava; its Devatha is Sri-Vidya-Maha-Tripura-Sundari Raja-Rajeshwari; its Chhandas is Amruta-Virat-Gayatri; and, its viniyoga is securing the grace and the blessings of the Supreme Mother Goddess Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari.

Asya Sri Nabhi-Vidya shodasakshari Tripura-Sundari Brahma-vidya Mantra-raja Maha -Mantrasysa Ananda-Bhairava-Rishihi / Amruta-Virat-Gayatri-Chandhaha / Sri-Vidya -Maha-Tripura-Sundari Raja-Rajeshwari Devatha / Aim, ka, ye, ela, hrim Bijam / Sau skala hrim Shakthi-hi / Klim hasa-kapala hrim kilakam / Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari Anugraha-prasada sidyarthe jape-viniyogaha //



In the Nabhi-Vidya, the Shodashi, Maha-Para-Shodashi Mantras of Hadi Vidya, Kadi Vidya and Hadi-Kadi Vidya are mixed and combined in various patterns; out of which, 36 Mantras are generated. These are followed by 4 separate Mantras (37-40).

Almost the entire body of the thirty-six elements of the Nabhi-Vidya (composed of the Purvanga-vidya-24; Raja-Vidya-12; and, Nrpathi-vidya-4) is comprised by the sets of instructions for the arrangement/recitation (Japa) of the complicated pattern of the mixture of the selected segments of the Shodashi, MahaShodashi and Para-Shodashi Mantras, as per the Kadi , Hadi and Hadi-Kadi Vidya-s, in their proper sequence (Anuloma) / reverse order (Viloma); with specified numbers of repetitions of the Hrim-kara (ह्रीं-Hrillekha-dwayam) .

Thus, the Nabhi-vidya is a compilation of a varied sets of Mantras, related to Srividya, arranged according to a pre-determined order. The Nabhi-Vidya, primarily and essentially, is meant for practice (Sadhana) of Srividya.  There is not much philosophical discussion or expounding of theoretical principles here. It, indeed, is a practical guide for worship (Puja-vidhi) of Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari through the medium of the Sri-chakra.

The Mantras from 37 to 40 , are four independent Mantras (Matruka; Guru-natha-paduka; Baala; and Para).

This is followed by an Epilogue (Uttara-bhaga) detailing the instructions to chant the Mantras as per both the Kadi and Hadi-Vidyas , as many times as possible (Yethah Vidyaya yatha-shakthi-japet-nityam) – at least a hundred times in a day.  And, in the concluding Devi-Puja-kalpa there are details of the worship-procedures (Kara-nyasa, Anga-nyasa, Dhyana-slokas etc) for the Sadhana of the Srividya Shodasha-akshari; Srividya Maha-Shodasha-akshari; and Srividya Para-Shodasha-askshari Mantras.

And, in the Phala-sruthi, it is assured that Nabhi-Vidya is so powerful as that reciting the Nabhi-Vidya once is equivalent to repetition (Japa) of the Pancha-dashi Mantra one Lakh times.  It would also bestow prosperity both here (Iha) and in hereafter (Para); and, will also grant the unshakable (a-chanchala) Self-knowledge (Atma-jnana).

Nabhi Vidya.2 jpg

Before we come to the text of the Nabhi-Vidya, let us try to get familiar with some of its terms.


Several explanations are offered to say why this set of mantras is celebrated as Nabhi-Vidya.

(1) The term Nabhi(नाभि), according to the ancient Katapayadi system or technique of hashing, for assigning numerical values to certain alphabets of Sanskrit Grammar (briefly explained a bit later), works out to the number 40. Here, the letter ‘Na’ (ना) stands for 0 (zero); and, ‘Bha’() for 4. And, when the resultant values are placed in the reverse order (as is usually done), it read as 40.  Following that, there are 40 mantras in the Nabhi-Vidya.

nabhi vidya 3

Of the 40 Mantras of the Nabhi-Vidya, 36 associated with the Kadi and Hadi Vidya traditions, are set to the various combinations of Shodashi and Maha-Shodashi Mantras. The rest four mantras are made up of Matraka; Guru-pada (Natha); Baala; and, Para mantras.


(2) Nabhi, its inadequate equivalent in English is navel; the depressed point in the middle of the abdomen. It is the Scar that marks the spot that once attached the umbilical cord to the foetus.

When the foetus is in its mother’s womb; it is thorough the umbilical cord, connected to its navel, that it gets nourishment. It is the ‘navel’ that, figuratively and also really, constructs a concreate relationship with its mother.  This cord is a part of both the foetus and of the mother as well, for a period of Forty weeks.

It is said that the Nabhi-Vidya, being at the centre of all the Maha-Mantras, connects the devotee to the Universal Mother (Vishva-matha).


(3) Nābhi (नाभि), the ‘navel’, representing one of the sixteen vital centres of the body (i.e., ādhāra), is regarded as a seat of vital function. Nabhi is also the center of Paravak, the vibratory energy and the primordial source of all sounds.

shat-chakra(4) Nābhi (नाभि) refers to one of the seventeen stages in the rise of kundalini-Shakthi. The seventeen syllables (saptadaśā-akṣhara) of Mantra-mātā (मन्त्रमाता) are said to be arranged in as many locations along the axis of the subtle body.

Bindu or the centre of the body is considered to be the Nabhi. This is also understood as the hub of a wheel i.e., Nabhi Chakra.

The Nabhi-chakra is a vortex, the third of the seven major Chakras rising from the base of the spine to the crown of the head; and, is located above the navel.  It is named as मणिपूर (Maipūra), the resplendent or lustrous gem; having ten petals, bearing the Sanskrit letters ahaatathadadhanapa, and pha. The Bija-akshara in the centre is ram. Its Tattwa, the element, is Fire-Agni. The Chakra is associated with bright yellow (much like that of the Sun-flower).

Yoga believes that with the opening of this Chakra, the yogi attains a clear sense of self and purpose.

Manipura chakra

The Manipura-chakra, located under the solar plexus, is said to have a profound impact on the central nervous system, the optic nerves; and, on one’s digestive system as well. It balances the body functions. And, it also is said to regulate one’s will power.

निम्ननाभिः (nimnanābhi): अरा इव रथनाभौ प्राणे सर्वं प्रतिष्ठितम् (arā iva rathanābhau prāe sarva pratiṣṭhitam) – Praśn. Up. 2.6

Nabhi Chakra

(5) Sri Lalita Tripura Sundarī protects from the navel region to the head, signifying the activation of the navel cakra to the Ajñā cakra.

सुन्दरी नाभि देशेऽव्याच्छीर्षिका सकला सदा । sundarī nābhi deśe’vyācchīrikā sakalā sadā

(6) Lord Vishnu, the protector of life, is also referred to as Padmanabha, the one who sprouts the lotus of creation.

Vishnu is depicted with a lotus emerging out of his navel. It is believed to be the centre of creative energy. The phenomenal universe is symbolized by Brahma, the creator, atop the lotus emerging from the navel of Lord Vishnu; the Navel being symbolized as the cause of creation 


(6) The Natya and Shilpa shastras developed a remarkable approach to the structure of the human body; and delineated the relation between its central point (Nabhi, the navel), the verticals and horizontals. Based on these principles, Natya-shastra enumerated many standing and sitting positions, with reference to the navel.


(7) Finally: Central to Tantra-faith is the concept of duality that culminates in unity; as being essentially non-dual (abheda). Shiva the pure consciousness and Shakthi its creative power; the pure-light of consciousness (Prakasha) and its power of illumination (Vimarsha) are eternally conjoined. The one cannot be differentiated from the other. The Tantra ideology explains that Shiva-Shakthi are essentially two aspects of One principle. In reality, the whole of existence, the range of manifold experiences in the world are but the expressions of Shiva-Shakthi combine. This Shakthi is all powerful and infinite.  It is only in the relative plane that Shiva-Shakti might appear as separate entities. But the Reality is unity, an indivisible whole.

Shiva Parvathi2


It is said; the term Vidya, ordinarily stands for knowledge (vid = to know). But, in the context of Sri Vidya, it indeed refers to the Mother Goddess, who resides as wisdom in all the beings (Ya Devi sarva-bhuteshu Vidya-rupena samsthitha). Her form of Vidya (Sri Vidya) is explained as the Vidya that leads to liberation (Sa Vidya parama-mukther-hetu-bhutva-sanatani). Bhagavathi, the Devi, is verily the highest divinity (Vidya-si sa Bhagavathi parama-hi Devi). And, the form of her Vidya is the primordial energy Adi prakriti.

Sri Vidya is also the Vidya that yields Sri (prosperity). Sri Vidya is thus Bhukthi-Mukthi prada, the bestower of well-being, prosperity and liberation. Sri Vidya is the path and also the goal.

The sacred (Divya) Nabhi-Vidya composed of the combination of the letters or the syllables (Bijakshara) of Shodashi and Maha-Shodashi mantras, set to the segments (Kūa) of the Kadi and Hadi Vidyas, is said to be very embodiment of the Devi.

Shodashi is the first among the Vidya-s. She is otherwise known as Sri Vidya. She is identified with deities Lalitha, Raja-Rajeshwari, Sundari, Kameshwari and Baala. Lalitha is the playful one; all creation, manifestation and dissolution is her play. She is Maha-Tripura-Sundari, the most magnificent transcendental beauty without a parallel in all the three worlds. She is the conqueror of three levels of existence.

Each of her forms emphasizes a particular quality or function. In Sri Vidya, the Goddess is worshiped in her benign (saumya) and beautiful (soundarya) aspects, following the Sri Kula (family of Sri) tradition (sampradaya).

Shodashi the Goddess who is Sixteen Years Old

Kadi-matha and Hadi-matha

The Sri Vidya tradition which centres on the worship of Sri Chakra, considers the following twelve gods and sages as its principal Gurus (mukhya-upaskaha): Manu, Chandra, Kubera, Lopamudra, Manmatha, Agasthya, Nandisha, Surya, Vishnu, Skanda, Shiva and Durvasa.

Manu-Chandra-Kuberascha-Lopamudra-cha-Manmathaha/Agathya-Nandi-Suryascha -Indro -Vishnu-Shiva-thatha / Krodha-Bhattaraco -Devya-yete-mukhya-upaskaha //

It is said; each of the twelve Gurus propagated a school with regard to the worship and the significance of Sri Chakra.  Of these, only two schools have survived to this day; one is the school started by Manmatha (also called Kamaraja) – known as Kadi-matha (also as Kamaraja-vidya, Madhumathi-matha; and, Kaali-krama). The Kadi tradition was continued by Sage Agastya. The Kadi-Vidya commences with the Bijakshara Ka () –     ह्रीं.

The other school is Hadi-matha (Sundari-krama), commencing with the Bijakshara () –      ह्रीं. This tradition was brought into practice by Lopamudra, wife of the Sage Agastya. And, some mention (?) that it was followed by five Upasaka-s: Manu, Kamaraja, Indra, Durvasa and Kubera.

Hadisthu Lopamudrashya, Kamarajasthu Kadikaha / tayosthu Kamarajam siddhi dau Bhakthi-shalini //

[An interesting aspect is that the vowels (aa, e, i etc.,) are regarded as representations of Shakthi; while the 35 consonants are basically inert and depend on vowels (just as Shiva depends on Shakthi) to manifest in a meaningful form. It is only when the germinating power (Bija) of the vowels is infused with consonants, the latter gain meaning. That is the reasons the vowels are Bija-aksharas. They transform ordinary letters into mother like condition (Matrika); that is, they impregnate ordinary letters with meaning and power.]


There is also a mention of an obscure third school called Sadi-matha (Tara-krama), commencing with the Bijakshara Sa () –    ह्रीं; and, this school, not recommended for householders, it appears, is no longer in current practice, externally.


Of the three, the Kadi- matha (with its mantra starting with letter Ka) is regarded the oldest; and, its attitude and worship is Sattvic; and, is considered more suitable for pious practice. (Kamarajam siddhi dau Bhakthi-shalini). It insists on virtue, discipline and purity of rituals. The prominent Gurus of this School are Paramashiva, Durvasa, Hayagriva and Agasthya. And, as such, Kadi-matha is regarded more important.

Of the other two schools, Hadi-matha is Rajasic; and, the Sadi-matha is Tamasic.

Devi sri chakra

Kadi-matha accepts Vedic authority; and, formulates its position in accordance with the Vedic tradition. The other School is considered different (iyam-anya cha vidya). The term Samaya also means Vedic convention; as orthodox and valid. Hence Kadi School came to be known as Samaya.

The Samaya believes in identity of Shiva and Shakthi; and, its form of worship is purely internal. Hence, Kadi School is also known as Para-Vidya, where the worship (Archana) is conducted in the space of one’s heart (hrudaya-akasha-madhye).

The external worship conducted, say by the Tantric Kaulas, lays greater importance on the Muladhara and Svadhistana Chakras, which are said to be situated at the base of the spinal column; and, which relate essentially to physiological needs and psychological urges.

The Samaya School, on the other hand, prescribes that the internal worship (Antar- Aradhana) be conducted at higher levels, viz., from Manipura to Sahasra. The seat of Tripura is at Sahasra, beyond the six Chakras. It is also the seat of supreme consciousness, Shiva, from which Shakthi springs forth.

Samaya is centered on knowledge (jnana), which is the realization of the identity of Shiva and Shakthi (Sri Shiva-Shakthi rupini Lalithambika). Sri Dakshinamurthi is a revered seer of the Kadi (Samaya) School.

Sri Chakra is the main device employed by Kadi (Samaya) school; the worship is mainly through symbolism; and, successive identifications. The symbolism involves identification (saamaya) of the arrangements and the lines of the diagram with the structure of the Universe; the psycho-physical aspects of the devotee with the spatial arrangement of the diagram representing the goddess; and identifying the Mantra with the Yantra.

Sri Yantra 2

As regards the worship of Sri Chakra, there are three recognized procedures:

: – Hayagriva tradition, regarded as Dakshina-chara, the right-handed method, reciting Lalitha-sahasra-nama and Lalita Trisathi, offering Kumkum.

: – Anandabhirava tradition, a Vama-chara, a left-handed method; and

: – Dakshinamurthi tradition, a doctrinal school-Samaya-chara.

Of the three, the last one is considered the best.

The Nabhi-Vidya, the Rishi of which is Anandabhirava, is classified under Vama-chara-vidya.

Guru-Dakshinamurtthi Dakshina-chara-pravarthakaha ; Hayagriva thatha chaivam / Vamecha-Ananadabhairava //

It is said; in the past, Nabhi-Vidya was practiced only by Chandra and Nandi (out of the twelve Upasakas). The Nabhi-Vidya does not appear to be in much circulation even during the present times.

Kamakshi Rotterdam Peetam0002

 Pancha-dashi and Shodashi Mantras


In the Sri-Vidya tradition, the Panchadashi (Pancha-dasakshari) and the Shodashi are the cardinal and exclusive (rahasya) Mantras.

The Panchadashi-mantra of very potent fifteen letters or syllables (Bijakshara), composed of three segments (Kūa) , is indeed the very heart of the Sri Vidya Upasana. It bestows true-knowledge (Jnana-dayaka) and liberation (Moksha-karaka).

The basic mantra is composed of three groups – Kuta or Khanda (segments) of Bijas.  The three groups together make up fifteen syllables (pancha-dasakshari mantra). This mantra is implicit.

Its three as are:

Vāgbhava-kūa of five Bīja-s (ka- e – ī – la-hrī,    ह्रीं);

Madhya or Kamaraja kūa of six Bīja-s (ha- sa- ka- ha- la- hrī,      ह्रीं); and,

the Shakti kūa of four Bīja-s (sa- ka- la -hrī,   ह्रीं).

Vāgbhavam Prathama Bijam / Kamarajam dwitiyakam / Trithiyam Shakthi Kutam / Nigama tritayodrutham, ittham Kumari-Vidyaya Bija-traya-mudiritham //


Aim (ऐं) is Vāgbhava-Bija; Klim (क्लीं) is Kamaraja-Bija; and, Sau (सौ) is the Shakthi-Bija. These three Bija-s together form Baala-mantra.

Its Rishi is Sri Dakshinamurthi; its Chhandas is Gayatri; and, its Deity (Devatha) is Baala-Tripura-Sundari

Lalitha -saharanamavali at 85,86, and 87 mention:

      1. shreemad-vaagbhavakoot’aik-asvaroopa-mukha-pankajaa;
      2.  kant’haadhahi-kat’i-paryanta-madhya-koot’a-svaroopinee;
      3.  haktikoot’aikataapannakat’yadho-bhaaga-dhaarinee


There is also a view that the first group starting with Ka is kadi-matha; the second group starting with Ha represents Hadi-matha; and, the third group starting with Sa is Sadi-matha.

The Rishis of the three practices are said to be: Sri Dakshinamaurthi; Hayagriva; and Anandabhairava, respectively.

Of these, Sri Dakshinamurthi and Hayagriva are said to have practiced Dakshina-chara (right method) ; while , Anandabhairava followed the Vama-chara (left-handed method)

Guru-Dakshinamurtthi Dakshina-chara-pravarthakaha ; Hayagriva thatha chaivam / Vamecha-Ananadabhairava //


The first Kuta of the Pancha-dashi -Mantra is said to be a prayer for removal of ignorance; the second, a prayer for grant of true knowledge; and, the third is the prayer seeking  experience of the identity with Shiva-Shakthi, the Devi.

The mantra is composed of a series of individual Bija-Akshara (syllables), each having its own identify and association; and, each representing a certain aspect of the Goddess. But, when these Bija-aksharas are taken together, they manifest the subtle form (Sukshma-rupa) of the Mother Goddess.

Lalitha-sahasranamavali at 88 and 89 mention: Moola-mantra-atmikaa; Moola-Kuta-traya-kalevaraa


The Kadi-matha (Kadi-Vidya) says that the Panchadashi-Mantra consists fifteen visible syllables (ka- e – ī – la-hrīṁ /  ha- sa- ka- ha- la- hrī / sa- ka- la -hrī).

ए ई ल ह्रीं / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / क ल ह्रीं

The Hadi-matha version of the Panchadashi-Mantra is said to be (as hinted in sloka 32 of Soundarya-Lahari ) : 

ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / स क ल ह्रीं


The Panchadashi-Mantra, as per Kadi -Vidya, is composed of 3 -s; 2 -s (the 5 together relate to Shiva); 3 ह्रीं-s (relate to Shiva-and-Shakthi); and, the seven others relate to Shakthi (ए ई ल ). Thus, the Mantra signifies the unison of Shiva and Shakthi.


It is also said that in  the Panchadashi-Mantra of the Kadi-matha (Kadi-Vidya) , which consists fifteen visible syllables (ka e i la hrim; ha sa ka ha la hrim; sa ka la hrim- क ए ई ल ह्रीं / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / स क ल ह्रीं);  Ka represents the air; ha the fire; sa the water; la the earth; and, e the space. The fifteen syllables are: one of space, two of air; three of fire; four of water; and five of earth.

These fifteen lettered Pancha-dasaksharimantra, celebrated as Kamaraja-mantra or Kadi-Vidya, is revered as the verbal form of the Mother Goddess.

Ka is the first letter in the fifteen-lettered (Pancha-dashi) mantra of the Devi in the Kadi-vidya of Sri Vidya tradition. Ka is an important syllable in the fifteen-lettered mantra; for it appears three times. Here, Ka variously stands for the principle from which everything arises; for illumination (Kan-dipatu); or for the principle of consciousness (buddhi) in beings; and, also for the symbol of Self.  And, Ka also stands for the form-less Brahman (ka iti Brahmano naamah). 



Shodashi literally means a ‘girl of sixteen years’; who is at a delightful stage of a woman’s life. Her nature is to play, to seek new experiences, and to charm others to her. Her innocence attracts all towards her. And, in Tantra, as also in Sri Vidya, the term refers to deities like Lalitha, Raja-Rajeshwari, Tripura-Sundari, Kameshwari and Baala et al.

Her mantra is called Shodashi mantra. Another reason for calling her mantra by that name is that it is made up of sixteen Bija-Akshara (seed-syllables).

The fifteen lettered (panch-dasha-akshari) Mantra is considered the verbal form of the Devi. But it is implicit or hidden. By adding   to the Pancha-dasakshari -mantra the sacred syllable S (श्रीं) it is transformed into the sixteen lettered Shodashi-mantra. It then becomes explicit.

The Bijakshara Srī (श्रीं) is regarded as the visual expression, the original or the own form of the Mother Goddess Sri. And, with the sixteenth syllable (Srim) She comes to be celebrated as Sri-vidya.

Kamaraja-mantrante Shrim-Bijena samanvitha / Shodasakshari Vidyeyam Sri-Vidyethi prakirthita //

And, the mantra itself becomes the body of the Mother Goddess. She manifests the un-manifest. She is Prakriti. The auspicious Sri (Srim) is thus revered as Saguna-Brahman, the Sa-kara approach to the absolute principle of the Devi.


The mantra (fifteen or sixteen letters) is, thus, an expression of Sri Vidya. The verbal expression (nada or sound) of the Vidya is mantra; and, its visual expression is the Sri Chakra Yantra. The two are essentially the same. Both are the means to realize the identity of one’s consciousness with Maha Tripura Sundari.

The Shodasha-akshari-mantra is revered as Brahma-Vidya, which bestows Bhukthi (prosperity), Bhakthi (devotion) and also Mukthi (liberation).


It is also said; this mantra is known as hoaśhī or Shodasha-kala-vidya, because each of its sixteen Bīja-s represents a phase (Kalā) of the moon. They are the sixteen individualized aspects, kalas or sixteen phases of moon (Shodasha kalaa). And, therefore this Vidya is also known as Chandra-kala- vidya, the wisdom of the lunar digits. 

This school of Sri Vidya explains that the fifteen letters of the mantra correspond to fifteen digits of the moon in each fortnight, commencing from prathipada, (Padyami) the first day of the brighter half (Shukla-paksha), when the moon “comes out of the sun”; and, ending with the full moon on the fifteenth day.

Similarly, in the dark half of the moon cycles (Krishna-paksha), all digits “return to the sun”. The emanation of the fifteen digits of the moon from the Sun culminates in the full moon (Purnima); while the absorption of the digits into the Sun results in new moon (Amavasya).

The sixteenth letter (Shodasha kala or Srim) is said to be present in each of the digits which are called Kalas or Nityas.

The Nityas are the primary Devatas represented in the triple-girdle (Tri-vrtta), between the outermost enclosure (Bhupura) and the sixteen—petalled -lotus (Asta-dala-padma of the second enclosure), in the form of sixteen vowels, each of them inscribed on a petal, in an anti-clock sequence. They are sixteen in number.

[In the Sri Vidya tradition, the sixteen guardian deities, named as Nityas, who form the entourage, of the Devi, are identified with the phases of the moon (Chandra-kalaa); and each Nitya corresponds to a day (tithi) or the aspect of the moon during the fortnight. The sixteen Nityas are: Kameshvari, Bhagamalini, Nityaklinna, Bherunda, Vahnivasini, Mahavajeshvari, Dooti, Tvarita, Kulasundari, Nitya, Nilapataka, Vijaya, Sarvamangala, Jwalamalinika and Maha-Nitya (Vichitra]

The Kalas or Nityas are invoked as forms of the Mother Goddess. They are worshipped during the brighter half of the month (Shukla-paksha), in a sequential order (Anuloma): Kameshvari on the first day; Bhagamalini on the second day; and, so on, till the fifteenth day. But, during the darker half of the month (Krishna-paksha), the worship sequence is reversed (Viloma), starting with Maha-nitya (Vichitra), the sixteenth Nitya. 

The full-moon or the New-moon represent the culmination of all the phases (Kalas) of the moon or of the Nityas. The sixteenth aspect of the moon (Shodashi) is looked upon as Maha-Tripura-Sundari (or Lalitha), represented by the central point (Bindu) of the Sri Chakra. 


The Shodashi-mantra in Kadi and Hadi-Vidya-s, would be

Kadi: Ka-Ye-Ee-La/ Hrim / Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La / Hrim / Sa-Ka-La / Hrim / …Srim

ह्रीं (5 Bīja-s) / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं (6 Bīja-s) / स क ल ह्रीं (4 Bīja-s)- श्रीं

Hadi: Ha-Sa-Ka-La / Hrim / Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La / Hrim / Sa-Ka-La/ Hrim … Srim

ह्रीं (5 Bija-s) / ह्रीं (6 Bīja-s) / ह्रीं (4 Bīja-s) श्रीं



Then there is the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra

The Mahā-Shoaśhī-Mantra is actually not sixteen; but it is a Mantra of 28 Bijakshara-s, set in three Kutas (segments): (Vac-Bija; Kamaraja-Bija; and, Shakthi-Bija). Here, each segment is counted as one Bijakshara. And, when it is hemmed on either side by eight and five Bijakshara-s, it would then be Maha-Shodashi-mantra of sixteen Bijakshara-s (8+3+5).

Ashta Bijaksharanyadau paschath panchadashi tathaha / panch-bijakshra seshya Sri-Maha-Shodashi mathaha //

It is said; when the fifteen lettered Pancha-dashi-Mantra is preceded by eight letters regarded as Om kara -pranavas (Srim, Hrim, Klim, Aim, Sauh, Aum, Hrim, Srim); and, is later succeeded by five letters regarded as Shakthi-pranavas (Sauh, Aim, Klim, Hrim, Srim), it would be transformed into Maha-Shodashi-Mantra. It will be a Mantra of 28 Bijakshara-s (8+15+5). This is revered as Brahma-vidya or Moksha-vidya.

(1) Srim, Hrim, Klim, Aim, Sauh; (2) Aum, Hrim, Srim; (3) Ka-Ye-Ee-La-Hrim; (4) Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La- Hrim; (5) Sa-Ka-La- Hrim; and, (6) Sauh, Aim, Klim, Hrim, Srim

श्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं सौः  ( 5 bīja-s); ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं ( 3 bīja-s); क ए ई ल ह्रीं ( 5 bīja-s); ह स क ह ल ह्रीं ( 6 bīja-s); स क ल ह्रीं ( 4 bīja-s); सौः ऐं क्लीं ह्रीं श्रीं ( 5 bīja-s)  .. (5+3+5+6+4+5 = 28)


Srim-Bijam-maya-smara-yoni-shakthihi sarvam cha maya kamalathma-vidya / Shakthyadi  bijani vilo-vitani Sri-shad-sharna-Para-Devatha //


The presiding deity of the Maha-Shodashi-mantra is Lalitha-Tripura-sundari; Raja-Rajeshwari-Para-Bhattarika.


The Navarna (also known as Navakshari and Chandi Gayatri) mantra of nine syllables is closely related to the extended Maha-Shodashi mantra of twenty-eight Bīja-s of Sri Lalitha tradition. Both are Navarna; as they are worshiped in nine levels (Navaavarana), where the Devi is worshipped in her nine forms. It is described as a mantra that grants the highest bliss – Mahad Ananda dayakah.

The Navārna-mantra (Śrī-Chaṇḍi-Navākharī-Mantra) is composed of the following syllables:

Om ai hrī klī cāmuṇḍāyai vicce –  ऐं ह्रीं क्लीं चामुण्डायै विच्चे  

The syllables of the Navārna-mantra are taken from the first line of the Mahāoaśī mantra – Srī– Hrī– Klī -Ai -Sau ( श्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं सौः)

[For more on Navavarana-Mantra, please click here]



Śrī Parāoahśī-mantra is associated with the ūrdhvāmnāya (Upper or higher) tradition of Śrī Vidya. 

The Rishi of the mantra is Narayana. Its Chhandas is Gayatri; Para Sri Devatha is the deity. Its Bija is Srim; Shakthi is Hrim; and, Keelaka (key) is Klim. Its resolve is to seek liberation – Jīvan mukthi 

Om̐ asya śrī parā oaśī mahā mantrasya; Nārāyaa ṛṣi  Gāyatrī chanda  Parā śrīrdevatā  Srīm̐ bīja  Hrīm̐ śakti  Klīm̐ kīlaka  jīvan mukti prasādaye jape viniyoga 

The Para-Shodashi-Mantra is composed of 28 letters:

Śrī Parā-oaśhī Aṣṭa-viśadyakara Mantra (श्री पराषोडशी अष्ट विंशद्यक्षर मन्त्रः)

 śrīm̐ sau klīm̐ aim̐ hrī / om̐ hrī śrī / sa ka la hrīm̐ / ha sa ka ha la hrīm̐ / ka e ī la hrī / hrīm̐ aim̐ klī sau śrīm̐ 

श्रीँ सौः क्लीँ ऐँ ह्रीँ / ॐ ह्रीँ श्रीँ / स क ल ह्रीँ / ह स क ह ल ह्रीँ / क ए ई ल ह्रीं / ह्रीँ ऐँ क्लीँ सौः श्रीँ /

The mantra has six parts (a-s). The first Kūa is reversed in the last a, which is meant to purify the process in the practice of one’s mantra-japa. The first Kūa and second Kūa have the same significance as in the Mahā-Shoaśhī-mantra, although the seed syllables (Bīja-s) are in a different order, with the liberation being the main objective.

This mantra is very similar to the Mahā-Shoaśhī-mantra ; and, contains the same set of seed syllables used in that mantra as well. Here, the Pañcha-daśhī-mantra is reversed.

The object of the Mahā-Shoaśhī-mantra is the elevation from the mundane existence to the spiritual, by gaining of the correct knowledge, leading to the realization of the Absolute. This is the Sristi-krama, progressing from the gross to the most subtle. In contrast, the Para-Shodashi-mantra adopts the Samhara-krama, progressing further from subtle to the Absolute.

Devi painting

As mentioned earlier, the text of the Nabhi-Vidya is composed of a series of Kadi and Hadi-Vidya Kutas set to varied combinations of Shodashi, Maha-Shodashi and Para-Shodashi Mantras. Such diverse combinations of the Mantras are thirty-six in number. In addition, there are four other Mantras: Matrka; Guru-paduka; Baala; and, Para-Mantras. Thus, bringing up the forty mantras of the Nabhi-Vidya


When an ardent devotee is initiated into the Srividya, the Guru, initially, teaches her / him the worship of the young Bala-Sundari, with Bala-mantra of three Bijas (Aim of speech, Klim of wish; and Sauh of Sha). After the practice of this Mantra for a considerable time, the devotee is lead into the fifteen -lettered Pancha-dashi-Mantra.

Thereafter, the Sadhaka practices the sixteen-lettered Shodashi-Mantra, which is the essence of the earlier two Mantras. After the due practice of the Shodashi Mantra, the Devotee is initiated into the Mantras each having twenty-eight syllables: the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra and the Para-Shodashi-Mantra, for the worship of Tripura-Sundari. From hereafter, the Sadhaka gains authority to practice the most secret and complicated modes of Srividya-sadhanas.

There is also a gradation among the Laghu-Shodashi, the Maha-Shodashi and the Para-Shodashi; each more subtle than its previous one. It progresses from the subtle, to subtler and the subtest.  (Sukshma, Sukshma-tara and Ati-Sukshma or Para),

These stages are also considered as progressions in the awakening of the Kundalini; leading to the realization of the identity with Shiva-Shakthi.

shiva shakthi 3

ka-Ta-pa-ya Sutra

The “ka-Ta-pa-ya Sutra”, the numerical notation or encoding system, used by ancient Indian mathematicians and grammarians, is a tool to map letters to numbers. This is the world’s most ancient Hashing Algorithm known; and, has its origin in India. This system is used in several types of ancient Sanskrit texts, as an Encryption technique.

By assigning a number to each consonant of the Sanskrit alphabet, arranged as four groups, with “ka, Ta, pa, ya” as the beginning letters of the groups, we get this Katapayadi table. This is the reason why this system is called Katapayadi. Ka=Ta=Pa=Ya=1

Katapayadi Sutra

According to the scheme, the consonants have numerals assigned as per the above table. All stand-alone vowels like a () and  () are assigned to zero. In case of a conjunct, consonants attached to a non-vowel will not be valueless. The only consonant standing with a vowel is ya ().  So, the corresponding numeral for kya (क्या) will be 1. There is no way of representing Decimal separator in the system

Now, each letter of the group is numbered from 1 through 9 and 0 for the tenth letter. Thus, ka is 1, sa is 7, ma is 5, na is 0 and so on.

However, in the Indian tradition, the digits of a number are written left to right in the increasing order of their place value – exactly opposite the way we are used to writing in the western way.

For instance; Mahabharata is called ‘Jaya’, where Ja equates to numerical 8; and, Ya to 1. When placed together it would read as 81. But when reversed it would result in 18. And, Mahabharata contains of 18 Parvan-s (Mega-Chapters).

One can also convert a number into a word. Let’s say 53. It could be indicated using letters in the 5th and 3rd positions of the group. Say; Nga, Ga. And, when it is reversed, it would read as Ganga.


In the next two parts, let us take a look at the structure of the text of the Nabhi-Vidya (Nabhi-vidya-Mantrah नाभिविद्यामन्त्रः); and, the patterns of the arrangements of its Mantras

[ I am particularly grateful to the erudite scholar Dr. Krovi Parthasarathy.]




Part Two

Sources and References

1.The Tantra of Sri Chakra by Prof. S.K. Ramachandra Rao (Sharada Prakashana, Bangalore,1983)

2.Srividya Shodasha-Maha-Mantramulu by Dr. Krovi Parthasarathy (Vijayawada-2020)

Nabhi-Vidya (Short Works)

Nabhi-Vidya ( a discussion) by Purnananda Lahiri



Posted by on January 30, 2022 in Nabhi Vidya, Sri Vidya


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Music of India – a brief outline – Part Nineteen

Continued from Part Eighteen – Lakshana Granthas– Continued

Part Nineteen (of 22 ) – Lakshana Granthas – Continued

 14. Venkatamakhin – Chatur-dandi-prakashika – Mela and Melakarta


Note venkat

Venkatamakhin also referred to as Venkateshwara Dikshita and Venkatadhvari was the son of Govinda Dikshita, the author of Sangita Sudha and the minister of the Nayak Kings at Thanjavuru.

Venkatamakhin was said to be a distinguished Mimamsa scholar; and, is credited with Karmāntha Mimamsa, a work on the Mimamsa and Vrittikabharana, a commentary on Kumarila Bhatta’s work. Venkatamakhin is also said to have composed twenty four Ashtapadis on Lord Tyagaraja, the presiding deity at Tiruvarur temple.

Venkatamakhin shows enormous respect towards his father Govinda Dikshita, mother Nagamba and his elder brother Yajnanarayana Dikshita. He mentions that his elder brother Yajnanarayana Dikshita taught him Tarka (Logic), Vyakarana (Grammar) and Mimamsa Shastra, as also Music.  Yajnanarayana Dikshita, who also was in the service of Raghunatha Nayaka, was a renowned scholar of his times. He is said to have written a play Raghunatha-Vilasa and a Champu-kavya Raghunatha Bhupa Vijaya in honor of the King. Apart from that, Yajnanarayana Dikshita is credited with Shitya-Ratnakara a treatise on Sanskrit literature and Grammar.

Neelakantha Dikshita a minister in the Court of Nayak Kings was a disciple of Venkatamakhin. Neelakantha Dikshita was also a well known poet of his times; and is said to have written a Kavya Siva Leelarnava, which describes the Leelas of Lord Sri Meenakshi Sundareswara of Madura.

[The picture at the top of this post  is taken from a painting  made by Sri S Rajam. There is an interesting anecdote connected with it.  When Sri Rajam intended to provide an illustration of Venkatamakhin as an introductory painting for the Apr 2008-March 2009 calendar brought out by L&T, he had no earlier pictures of Venkatamakhin to guide him. His research into the archives of Sri Kanci Mutt led him to an interesting detail showing that Venkatamakhin who was also a skillful vainika wore his long hair in a coil such that it did not touch his body; he coiled it atop his head. Shri S Rajam then pictured Venkatamakhin with coiled locks of hair, rudraksha-mala; and surrounded by musical instruments such as Veena, Tambura etc. as also scrolls of ancient manuscripts, lending the picture an air scholarship and a spiritual aura.]


Venkatamakhin fame rests mainly on his work Chatur-dandi-prakashika, which he wrote (perhaps around the year 1650) under the patronage of the Fourth Nayaka King Vijaya Raghava who succeeded Raghunatha Nayaka and ruled up to 1672. Chatur-dandi-prakashika is a treatise on Music that illumines four forms of song-formats: Gita, Prabandha, Thaya and Aalapa (Gita-prabandha-sthaya-alapa-rupa-chatur –dandi) which seemed to have formed the pattern (or profile) for concert performances during 14-15th centuries. In that context, he makes frequent references to Gopala Nayaka (1205-1315) and to Tanappa-charya whom he calls Parama-guru ( Guru’s Guru) . Both of these were, perhaps, renowned performers of Charurdandi.Along with the text, Venkatamakhin is said to have composed Lakshana-gitas on a large number of Ragas.

The text of the Chatur-dandi-prakashika was said to contain ten Chapters (Prakarana), each dealing with: Veena, Sruti, Svara, Mela, Raga, Alapa, Thaya, Gita, Prabandha and Taala. Among these, portions of Prabandha-prakarana and the entire Taala-prakarana are lost. But, interestingly, it is the Appendix (Anubandha) to the main text that brought focus on Venkatamakhin.

The Veena-prakarana generally follows the concepts and techniques described in Somanatha’s Raga-vibodha and Ramamatya’s Svara-mela-kalanidhi ; and,  discusses about two kinds of fret-arrangements and tuning of the Veena-strings. Venkatamakhin mentions three types of Veena: Shuddha-mela-veena; Madhyama-mela-veena; and, Raghunathendra-mela-veena.

While describing the arrangement of the frets on each of the three types of Veena, Venkatamakhin follows the illustrations provided by Ahobala Pandita.  According to that, arrangement of frets could be done in two ways: One with fixed frets on which all Ragas could be played (Sarva-raga-mela-veena); and the other with frets specially placed to suit playing of a particular Raga (Eka-raga-mela-veena) .

Venkatamakhin informs that during those days, besides the common Shuddha and Madhya-mela Veena described by Ramamatya, there was also a Veena with a higher tuning, i.e. in this tuning the first three strings are ignored and the fourth one tuned to Shadja has frets for three Sthanas. It was named by Govinda Dikshita as Raghunathendra-mela-veena, in honour of the King.

In the Second Chapter dealing with Srutis, Venkatamakhin ,in the traditional manner,  talks about 22 Srutis and their distribution over Seven Svaras. He explains that the 22 Srutis are not placed at equal intervals, but are placed at specific intervals depending upon the  Svara structure in the Raga. For instance, he says, the Shadja and Shuddha Rishabha on the Veena should be divided equally into three parts ; and two frets be introduced and thus three Srutis of `ri’ are seen (Sa – – ri).

The third Chapter on Svaras explains the nature of Shuddha and Vikrita Svaras. He explains the Shuddha Svaras with the illustration of Mukhari Raga having Sa, Ma and Pa having 4 Srutis; Ga and Ni having 2 Srutis; and, Ri and Dha having 3 Srutis.

As regards Vikrita Svaras, Venkatamakhin asserts that in practice there are only five in number and not 7 or 12 as mentioned in the texts of Ramamatya and Sarangadeva.  The five Vikrita Svaras according to him are: Sadharana Gandhara; Antara Gandhara; Varali Madhyama; Kaishiki Nishadha; and, Kakili Nishadha.

Dr. N. Ramanathan explains: the one interesting feature of Venkatamakhin’s descriptions of Shuddha and Vikrita Svaras is that he considers the same Svara to be different if its interval from its previous Svara is altered.

Then, Venkatamakhin goes back to the ancient Gramas – Shadja, Madhyama and Gandhara; as also to the Murchana and the Tana. He also talks about Alamkara, Gamaka and Vadi-Samvadi Svaras. In all these, he refers to the descriptions as given in the older texts. As regards Vadi-Samvadi, he applies the ancient system to his contemporary practices and gives illustrations.

The Fourth Chapter is about his exposition of Mela scheme. He tried forming as many number of Melas as possible by permuting Shuddha and Vikrita Svaras. With this, he comes up with 72 Melas. Venkatamakhin asserts that his scheme of 72 Melas comprehends all the Melas that may have existed in the past and those that might be created in future.  Out of the 72 Melas, Venkatamakhin was able to identify the Ragas of only 19 Melas. Therefore, he could name only 19 Melas; the rest were not assigned any names. These (53) he considered as theoretical possibilities, but (then, at that time) non-functional since no known Ragas could fit in to his scheme of these Melas.

[According to Emmie Te Nijenhuis:  Venkatamakhin’s system of nineteen Melas closely resembles the Ramamatya’s Mela system: fifteen of Venkatamakhin’s Melas are almost identicle with Ramatya’s Melas. For instance; the Mela Bhairavi of Venkatamakhin corresponds to Hindola of Ramamatya. Similarly, Venkatamakhin’s Shankarabharanam corresponds to Ramatya’s Kedaragaula and Saranganata Melas.  However, Venkatamakhin’s Bhupala, Pantuvarali, Simharava and Kalyani are not found in Ramamatya’s system.]

While describing the 19 Melas, he also gives the Svaras and the 22 Srutis in each case. And , while naming the 19 Melas he also indicates each one’s position  (number) in his Grand scheme of 72 Melas.

    • 1.He starts with Mukhari which is his first Mela and also the first among the 72;
    • 2. Samavarali (3);
    • 3.Bhupala (8);
    • 4.Hejjuli (13);
    • 5.Vasanthabhiravi (14);
    • 6. Gaula (15); 
    • 7. Bhiravi Raga (20);
    • 8.Ahiri (21);
    • 9.Sri Raga (22);
    • 10. Kambhoji (28);
    • 11. Shankarabharanam (29);
    • 12. Somantha (30);
    • 13. Desaki (35);
    • 14. Naata (36);
    • 15.  Shuddha Varali (39);
    • 16. Pantuvarali (45);
    • 17. Shuddha Ramakriya (51);
    • 18. Simharava Raga (58) – an invention of Venkatamakhin; and,
    • 19. Kalyani (65).

[The numbers mentioned in the brackets indicate the number assigned to the Mela in the overall scheme of 72 Melas.]

Venkatamakhin went by recognizing a Mela Raga if all the seven Svaras occurred in it, either in the Aroha or in the Avaroha. He did not insist that a Mela Raga should be a Sampurna Raga, with all the seven Svaras in both the Aroha and Avaroha. Further, during the time of Venkatamakhin the concept of Mela-karta had not yet evolved. All his discussions are in terms of the Melas.

While talking about his scheme of 72 Melas, Venkatamakhin makes very interesting remarks :

I have no doubt worked out the 72 Melas , but it might be said that this permutation is a waste , since, of these 72, only a few are known and found in practice; my reply is that I have devised a scheme which would comprehend all Ragas of all times and of all countries , Ragas now known and Ragas which might be created in future, Ragas which we do not know  at all and Ragas which are only in text books , Ragas that are Desiya Ragas and the already generally accepted Melas of those  Desi Ragas , such Ragas like Pantuvarali and Kalyani  and their generally accepted Melas – it is to comprehended all these that I have devised this scheme of 72 Melas . Wherefore should one fear that it will be futile?

[Source: Collected writings on Indian Music .Vol 2 .p.264-5 by Dr. V. Raghavan]

Yes, indeed; it was not a futile exercise at all , but a path breaking pioneering work that led to improvements and refinements of the entire theory and scheme of the Melas and their derivatives.

[Venkatamakhin’s Mela scheme was thoroughly revised later. (We shall talk about these in a little while). The concept of Mela-karta (Janaka) from which other ragas may be derived and of Raganga Ragas also came about after Venkatamakhin’s time. Following that, the rest 53 Melas which Venkatamakhin could not name were duly recognized and assigned names. And, finally 72 Mela-karta Ragas were identified and named. Along with coining names, a system of hashing (Ka-ta-pa-yadi) for identifying the Raga-number with the aid of the first two syllables of its name was also introduced.]

In the Fifth Chapter – Raga prakarana – Venkatamakhin recalls the ancient system of identifying a Ragas with ten characteristics (Lakshanas) – Graha, Amsa, Tara, Mandra, Sadava, Audavita, Aplatva, Bahutva, Apa-Nyasa and Nyasa. He again talks of the earlier classification of Ragas as Grama raga, Bhasha Raga etc.  He describes 55 Ragas picked on the basis Graha Svaras (the initial note – Adi-Svara).  He starts with Ragas having Shadja as Graha Svara, then the Ragas with Rishabha as Graha Svara and so on. In case of each Raga, he mentions the Mela to which it belongs  as also their Lakshana and Lakshya.

He gives a classified list (according to Graha, Nyasa etc) of 54 Ragas with their descriptions, their Svara structure and their Mela.

The Sixth Chapter, Alapa-prakarana talks of various stages in developing a Raga Aalapa.

The Seventh Chapter Thaya-prakarana is the briefest with only seven verses. Venkatamakhin describes Thaya (Sthaya) as a melodic phase with rich musical potential that forms the main ingredient in Raga elaboration.  AS Dr. Ramanathan explains : In the Raga-alapana , Thaya is that in which a particular Svara is taken as the stationary point from which phrases are built up encompassing four Svaras in the ascending direction and later in the descending direction and finally conclude on mandra -sa.

The Eighth Chapter Gita-prakarana is about the Gita (the song); and also about the Shuddha Suda and Salaga Suda class of Prabandha. The latter, the Salaga Suda, in particular is treated a Gita. Venkatamakhin describes seven forms of Prabandhas under Salaga Suda: Dhruva, Mattha, Pratimattha, Nisharuka, Attatala, Rasa, and Ekatali

The Ninth Chapter Prabandha–prakarana is the extension of its previous Chapter; but , it is incomplete.  Here, Venkatamakhin describes Prabandha in terms of Six Angas (limbs or elements): Svara, Birudu, Pada, Tena, Paata, and Taala;   and Four Dhatus (sections in a song): Udgraha, Melapaka, Dhruva and Abogha. Then, he goes into to the classification of Prabandha depending upon the (a) number of Angas and (b) number Dhatus of which they are composed.  He also provides number of illustrations.

The Tenth and the Last Chapter on Taala is lost.

When you look back you find that Chatur-dandi prakashika, basically, recalls the Music practise as they existed during 14th to 17th centuries.  It throws light on the history of those times and clarifies some issues. But, by the time Venkatamakhin wrote this text, many of the subjects he discussed, particularly the Prabandha, were fading away giving place to newer forms of song-formats and improvised ways of rendering the Raga and the song.

Venkatamakhin was criticized for making uncalled for remarks such as: Ramamatya could not even understand what a Sheppard could easily understand; and, that not even Lord Shiva can improve upon his Mela scheme. (He, of course, was proved wrong as his Mela scheme was revised and improved upon). During the early 20th century controversies raged over the Melas of Venkatamakhin. Some critics argued that the Kanakambari -Phenadyuti nomenclatures – the Mela names –  found in the Appendix to Chatur-dandi – prakashika though ascribed to Venkatamakhin are not actually his own** . It was also pointed out that Venkatamakhin’s Mela was already marked with Ka-ta-pa-yadi prefixes. And they said, it is not known who invented this ingenious system ; but, it could not be Venkatamakhin. Most of such controversies have now been put to rest.

[**Prof N Ramanathan in his article The Post-Sangitaratnakara Svara System (included under The Traditional Indian Theory and Practice of Music and Dance – Edited by Jonathan Katz) observes: It is unlikely that the Appendix was written by Venkatamakhin himself. One cannot sure that Venkatamakhin himself is the author of the names of the seventy-two Melas, Kanakambari, Phena- dyuti etc.,; their Janyas and their Lakshanas in Slokas.

In the Text proper, the Svaras of the Ragas Mukhari are mentioned as being all Shudddha; and, Mukhari is placed as the First Mela. However, in the Appendix, the names of the Melas are different; and, the First Mela, here, is Kanakambari. And, Mukhari Raga is listed under the Twentieth Mela. Further, under the First Mela, another different Raga (that is – Shuddha Mukhari) is given.  This seems to suggest that Shuddha Mukhari comprises only the Shuddha Svaras.

The conclusion that follows is: that in the intervening period between the writing of the Text and the writing of the Appendix, certain changes had taken place in the Svara system.  To illustrate: in the old system Ga was five Srutis away from Sa; and, in the new system, Ga was four Srutis away from Sa. Similarly, in the old system, Shuddha –rsabha was three Srutis, while in the new system it was two Srutis.  Hence, the old scale of Shuddha Svaras was different from the new one. ]

Chatur-dandi-prakashika is known and recognized today mainly because of the 72 Mela Scheme that he introduced. And, this exercised great influence in reorganizing the Ragas and the Music structure in Karnataka Sangita.  In that regard, Chatur-dandi-prakashika is a very important text.



Mela is a Kannada word that is still in use; and, it signifies ‘group’ or ‘gathering’. There have been many attempts, at various stages in the history of Karnataka Sangita, to organize the then known Ragas by groping them into categories. The earliest known such attempt was by the sage Sri Vidyaranya (1320-1380) who in his Sangita-sara   grouped about 50 Ragas into 15 Melas.

Following Sri Vidyaranya, Ramamatya in the Fourth Chapter – Mela-Prakarana– of his Svara-mela-kalanidhi (1550 AD) introduced the theoretical framework for classifying then known Ragas into 20 Melas, the notes and names of which were taken from the prominent Ragas of that time.  This was an improvement over the system initiated by Sri Vidyaranya.

Ramamatya lists 20 Melas: 1.Mukhari; 2.SriRaga; 3. Malavagaula; 4. Saranganata; 5. Hindola ; 6. Shuddha-ramakriya; 7. Desaki; 8.Kannadagaula; 9. Shuddanti; 10.Ahari; 11.Nada-ramakriya; 12.Shuddhavarjati; 13. Ritigaula; 14. Vasantha-bhairavi; 15.Kedaragaula; 16.Hejujji; 17.Samavarali; 18.Revagupti; 19. Samantha; and 20. Kambhoji.

Ramamatya gives details of Shuddha-Svaras and Vikŗta-Svara-s occurring in each of the Mela, a list of sixty-four Janya Raga-s classified under each Mela, and the Sruti positions of Svaras in the Melas. Mukhari is established as the Shuddha-Svara Saptaka in this treatise

Later scholars, that is after Ramamatya, started computing the maximum number of seven Svara combinations they could derive (melaprasthara) based on the number of Svara positions. Here, each author computed a different number of Melas based on the number of Svarasthanas he had theorised.

For example, during the second half of the 16th century Pundarika Vittala (in his Raga-manjari) introduced Ramamatya’s 19-Mela system in North India. But, he changed the names and scales of several Melas. He wrote two treatises. One was Sadraga Chandrodaya, and the other  was Ragamanjari. In Sadraga Chandrodaya Pundarika Vittala gives 19 Melas  with  66 janya ragas ; but, in Ragamanjari he gives 20 Melas and 66 janya ragas. (It is explained; in Ragamanjari Pundarika Vittala gives one extra Mela, because of the chatusruti Ri and kaisiki Ni combination). But, in his Sad-Raga-chandrodaya Pundarika Vittala mentions the possibility of 90 Melas.

Another South Indian musicologist who migrated to North was Srikantha who wrote his Rasa-kaumudi at about the same time. In classifying 37 important Ragas, he reduced Ramamatya’s 19 Melas to 11 or in fact to 10 as his scales of Malhara and Saranga were actually the same. His system resembled the contemporary Arabic system of 12 predominant modes (Maqam).

Then, following Ramamatya and Pundarika Vittala, Ahobala Pandita classified 122 Ragas under six Mela categories and three subdivisions:

Audava(pentatonic), Shadava(hexa-tonic) and  Sampurna (hepta-tonic).

Hridayanarayana Deva who followed Ahobala Pandita, arrived at 12 Melas composed of two sets of six Melas depending on the number of Vikrita Svaras.

Lochana Kavi also came up with 12 Melas.

And, in Somantha’s Raga Vibhodha there are 960 possible Melas.

Even though they all came up with this computation they found that only a limited number of these were actually used in the form of a Raga.  Therefore, Somanatha felt that 23 Melas would suffice to classify the 67 Ragas then in practice.

Thus, right from 14th century, Musician-scholars have been classifying and re-classifying Ragas into different sets of Melas, each according to his pet theory.

When you look back you will find that over a long period there had been a tendency to evolve as many numbers of Melas as possible.

The proliferation of Melas seemed to have come about because that instead of abstracting Melas from out of the Ragas in vogue, attempts were made to arrive at as many number of Svara-structures as possible out of the known Shuddha ( pure) and Vikrta ( modified) Svaras. This practice came to known as Mela –prastara (elaboration or spreading of the Melas). For instance; a Mela is basically a collection of seven Svaras. By permutation of these Svaras in varying ways one could arrive at a number of plausible Melas. Somanatha , as mentioned earlier, claimed that he could devise as many as 960  plausible Melas; but then , he found it reasonable to restrict the numbers to 23  abstracted from the then known Ragas.

This process of Mela-prastara went on till the number of Melas (or Mela-karta) settled down at 72.


[For a detailed  and scholarly discussion on ‘The Mela Classification of Ragas ‘ with particular reference to Pundarika Vittala , please refer to Chapter 8 Mela system of Dr.Padma Rajagopals’s thesis.]


One of the most important texts in that context was Chatur-dandi-prakashika of Venkatamakhin (1650), which brought the Mela system on a rational basis. It classified the Ragas according to the system of 72 basic scales (Mela). The basics of system still prevail, though with modifications.

In 1620, Venkatamakhin also corrected Ramamatya’s system by reducing it to 19 from the original 20 Melas, because he found that the notes of the two Melas were similar.

But, in the Appendix (Anubandha) to his Chatur-dandi-prakashika, Venkatamakhin mentions the possibility of classifying Ragas (Kanakangi to Rasikapriya) built on 12 Svara-Sthanas under a 72 Mela-scheme made into two groups of 36 each (Shuddha Madhyama and Prathi Madhyama). It was, at this time, only a theoretical possibility, since all those 72 Melas were yet unknown. Out of such 72 Melas, Venkatamakhin was able to identify the Ragas of only 19 Melas. The rest (53) he considered as mere theoretical possibilities; and, non-functional since no known Ragas could fit in to his scheme of these Melas.  Therefore, he could name only 19 Melas; the rest (53) were not assigned any names.

[The scheme of 72 Melas devised by Venkatamakhin , during his time, was almost unknown outside the scholarly circles. Maharaja Tulaja of Tanjavur, in his work –Sangita saramritam (1735) – remarked that the Melas of Venkatamakhin had not attained publicity; and, for practical purposes,  the Ragas covered under Twenty-one  Melas would be sufficient.]


[There is some interesting discussion on Todi, presently, a prominent Raga in Karnataka Sangita. Venkatamakhin calls Todi an ‘outhara’ raga. He does not include Todi in the 19 Melas called as ‘praak-prasiddha melas. According to his scheme of Asampurna paddhati, Todi is the eighth raganga raga known was Janatodi.

Some scholars do not however agree with Venkatamakhin’s treatment of Todi. They point out that Todi is not a ‘northern’ Raga; and, its traces can be found in the Southern music – say in the Divya Prabandhams as Mudirnda Kurinji – though it was fully developed in the period of the Trinities.

Prof. Sambamurthy also did not agree that Todi was an outhara raga; and, he described Todi as a ‘naya ragam’- the one that offers ample scope for alapana, niraval and swaraprasthara. He said Todi was a sarvaswara gamaka varika rakti raga. Dr. S.A.K. Durga called Todi as one of the ragas having most samvaaditva (consonance) or arguably the most consonant raga.

Todi which is sung often with shadja varja and panchama varja, seems to have been among the favourites of  Sri Dikshitar’s family. For instance; Ramaswamy Dikshitar composed a padam in Todi; Muthuswami Dikshitar’s dhyana kriti in his Navarana group is in Todi; Chinnaswamy Dikshitar’s popular pallavi ‘Gaanalola Karunaala vaala’ is in Todi; and, Baluswami Dikshitar’s chittaswarams for ‘Gajavadana,’ give the essence of Todi.

Todi – formally titled as Hanumatodi is the 2nd rāga in the 2nd chakra – Netra.  It is the 8th Melakarta rāga (parent scale) in the 72 Melakarta rāga system – Sampurna paddhati. 

Sri Tygaraja who followed Sampurna paddhati, has composed about 32 kritis in Todi, with each composition starting at every single note of the three octaves. It is a very popular raga, very often sung in the concerts. Yet; Todi is known to be a difficult raga, because of the complexity in its Prayoga (execution). That, perhaps, is the reason why beginners are not taught  Todi and Saveri. ]

It is said that it was Venkatamakhin’s grandson Muddu Venkatamakhin, who gave the nomenclature for the Mela Ragas, (Kanakambari, and Phenadhyuti etc) in his Gitam called Raganga Raga Anukramanika Gitam (numbered as 15.14.1 in Sri Subbarama Dikshitar’s Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (1904). Please check page  250 /664 of the web-page / page 207 of the Book .

In Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Ragalakshana a drastic shift takes place in the Mela-concept. He synthetically creates Janya Ragas for the remaining 53 Melas that were earlier considered non-functional. Here for the first time the Raga-description is based purely on its Svara-sthanas. It is also at this stage that the Raga Grammar or its characteristic is described in terms of its   Aroha and Avaroha Svaras.

(Please check here for Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Appendix (Anubandha) to Chaturdandi  Prakashika )

Some say, it is likely that Muddu Venkatamakhin’s scheme grew in two stages. In the second stage the Katapayadi prefixes were added to suit the Raga-names; or the other way. The Gitas in the Raganga (Mela-kartha) Ragas bear the names with their Katapayadi prefixes.

Shri TM Krishna observes: ‘The Muddu Venkatamakhin tradition, which uses the terms Raganga Raga (equivalent term to Mela-kartha) and Janya Raga, adopts the opinion that the Raganga Raga needs to be Sampurna in either Aroha or Avaroha but non-linear (A-sampurna). It is believed that Muddu Venkatamakhin wrote Lakshanas for the Raganga (Mela) ragas and their Janyas.

Sri Muthusvami Dikshitar gave form to most of these Ragas through his compositions. As regards the A-sampura (not-sampurna) Ragas, Sri Muthusvami Dikshitar chose to change their structure in order to mitigate the ill-effects of direct Vivadi Svaras in their scale.

[Sri Subbarama Dikshitar while writing about the life of Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar (father of Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar) says he learnt Mela system from Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshitulu, who was the maternal-grandson of Venkatamakhin (Vaggeyakara Caritramu, pg.25, SSP English Translation Vol.1). This Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshitulu is identified by some as Muddu Venkatamakhi.

However, Dr. R. Sathyanarayana differs. According to the dates given by Dr. Sathyanarayana (Rāgalakaam of Śrī Muddu Venkatamakhin; Introduction, pg.9) Muddu Venkatamakhin may have been born around 1650 A.D and Venkata Vaidyanatha was a younger contemporary who taught Ramaswamy Dīkṣhitar at around 1750 A.D.]

Again, during late 17th – early 18th century, a person called Govindacharya the author of Samgraha-chudamani changed the names of some Melas of Venkatamakhin

[Sri  T R Srinivasa Ayyangar  , in his introduction to Sangraha Chudamani of Govinda , edited by Pandit Sri Subrahmanya Sastry  (Published by The Adyar Library, 1938) writes : The author of this work Govinda , popularly known as Govindacharya, to distinguish him from his famous namesake , does not seem to have been known otherwise to fame. Neither his place of nativity , nor his antecedents  , nor the time when he flourished can be traced with any accuracy.

Further , Sri Ayyangar mentions : a manuscript copy of Sangraha Chudamani  was in possession of Manabuccavadi  Venkata Subba Ayyar , an immediate disciple of Sri Thyagaraja; and, it had been copied by Maha vadidyanatha Sivan and  Pattanam Subrahmanya Ayyar..

It is , therefore, very likely that Sri Thyagaraja was familiar with the text and its Mela classifications.]

Govindacharya expanded on Venkatamakhin’s Mela concept   by introducing  the  Sampoorna Meladhikara (equivalent term to Melakarta) scheme which  has a complete (sampoorna) Saptaka : both in the Arohana and the Avaroha  structure; and importantly the Svaras are to be in linear order. In this scheme, the Mela-kartas arise out of systematic permutation of the seven Svaras into the twelve Svara-sthanas

Govindacharya is also said to written lakshana-gitas and lakshana-slokas (numbering in all 366) covering 294 Janya RagasAnd, it is believed, he refined the Katyapadi prefixes by linking the Mela Ragas to their first two syllables of their names. This system of 72 Mela is the Karnataka Mela system of the present day.

Some say; while devising the system of 72 Meladhikara-s, based on 22  Srutis,  Govindacharya  adopted the nomenclatures and characteristics that were used by the musicologist Akalanka  (later than Venkatamakhin?) in his Telugu  work Sangita sara sangrahamu.   Akalanka  had developed his system on the basis of the Sruti positions in a Rudra-veena ; and, had employed the Katapayadi mode of computation. In the system devised by Akalanka, the Melakartas were complete both in the Aroha and the Avaroha. Sri  Subrahmanya Sastry beleives that Sri Tyagaraja was the first Vakgeyakara to introduce Akalanka’s  Melakartas ; and to compose Kritis , illustrative of their principles.

[Please refer to the Sangraha Chudamani of Govinda, edited by the renowned scholar, Pandit Sri S . Subrahmanya Sastry; and, published by Adyar Library, 1938. Please do read the highly educative introduction written by Sri T R Srinivasa Ayyangar.

But , there is a dispute about the very name Akalanka. Dr. V Raghavan, in the introduction to Sangita Sara Sangrahamu Tiruvenga Dakaviedited by Dr. Narendra Sharma, remarks that the name Akalanka is ‘absolutely unreal’; and, Sri Srinivasa Ayyangar might have misunderstood the opening verse of the manuscript.  He surmises that its  author might have been one Tiruvenkata , who wrote it for a Lady named Kuntalamba (page ix).

Further , Dr.  Raghavan states : there is hardly any ground for asserting that this Telugu text, in rather untidy Telugu,  is the source for Govinda. ‘ –  Page xi]

In any case :

Govindacharya’s insistence on a Sampurna Arohana–Avarohana profile lent the Mela-karta a sort of elegance. And, seen from another view, the Mela-karta scheme appears as a product of mathematical abstraction. And, naming of the Mela, the ragas, the Svaras (and introduction of Vivadi Svaras) seem rather incidental to its technical process.

Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar followed Venkatamahin’s scheme (Kanakambari-Phenadyuti); while, Sri Tyagaraja gave forms to most of the Ragas in the other scheme (Kanakangi-Rantnangi).   The subtle but main difference between the two schemes appears to be the importance given to the linearity and non-linearity of the Svaras in Arohana and Avarohana.


Prof. Ramanathan explains : The difference between Mela-karta and Raganga-raga is that while the former (Mela-karta) had to have all the seven Svaras in both the Aroha (ascent) and in the Avaroha (descent); but, for the latter (Raganga-raga) it was sufficient if the seven Svaras were present either in Aroha or in Avaroha. Further , in Mela-karta , the Aroha and Avaroha the seven Svaras have to occur in their regular (krama) sequence ; while in the Raganga-raga , the  sequence of Svaras in  Aroha and Avaroha could be irregular (vakra) .

In other words; the Melakarta Ragas are all Sampurna Ragas, but the converse is not true, i.e., all Sampurna Ragas are not Melakarta Ragas

With these stipulations, the sequence of the Svaras in Aroha and Avaroha became the defining characteristic of a Raga. And , in about a century following the Chaturdandi-prakashika , the eminent composers , mainly the Trinity, composed Kritis in the Ragas classified under all the 72 Melas.

But , in the later period , the distinction between the Mela and the Raganga-Raga gradually faded away; and, the two concepts merged into one.

Thus, the formulation of the 72 Mela-prastara and the later auxiliaries greatly influenced the course of the South Indian classical music of the later period.

As per Shri TM Krishna: ‘Mela started out as a way to organize existing Ragas but moved to creating scales as Ragas using the Mela structure. Probably for the first time in musical history theory influenced practice. This is probably why many Ragas in performance even today are only Svara structures sans features that give a Raga an organic form’.


Raga Pravaham  a monumental work and a reference source of immense value to learners, teachers, musician and musicologists alike, is an Index of about 5,000 Karnataka Ragas, compiled by Dr. Dhandapani and D. Pattammal. The list of Ragas is given both alphabetically and Mela karta wise. The different kramas for the same Ragas and same scales with different names are also listed.

Apart from indexing Mela-karta Ragas, Janya ragas, Vrja and Vakra Ragas and their derivatives; the Raga Pravaham lists about 140 Hindustani Ragas, which are  allied or equivalent to Karnataka Ragas.

In his introduction to Raga Pravaham, the renowned musicologist and scholar Prof .Dr. S. Ramanathan (1917-1988)-(Wesleyan University, U.S.A),  wrote :

The Raga system in Carnatic music has a long and interesting history from the time of Matanga’s Brihaddesi, where you come across the definition of Raga. The system has evolved through the centuries. Ragas like Gaula, Takka etc. are mentioned in the Brihaddesi.

By the 13th century, the Sangita Ratnakara of Sarangadeva lists as many as 264 Ragas. Here, you come across Ragas like Sankarabharana, Sri Raga, Todi, Malavagaula (which is referred to as Taurushka), and Kedaragaula etc.

In the 14th Century Vidyaranya, in his musical treatise Sangeetha Saram gives a list of fifteen Mela Ragas ; and , by the year 1550, Ramamatya in his Swara Mela kalanidhi speaks of 19 Melas and several derivatives from each of them.

In the beginning of 17th Century, Somanatha’s Raga Vibhoda; and Govinda Dikshitar’s Sangita Sudha are two important works which deal with Ragas current at that time.

In the latter half of 17th Century, Venkatamakhi, son of Govinda Dikshitar appeared on the scene; and, in his monumental work Chatur-Dandi-Prakasika expounded the 72 Mela-karta schemes, which brought the Mela Janya system on a rational basis.

In this work, he only showed the possibility of 72 Mela  kartas. But, in his scheme, a Raga could be a Mela  only in case it had all the seven Svaras either in the ascent (arohana) or In the descent (avarohana). Kedara-Gaula which is Audava Sampurna was a Mela in his scheme.

It is believed that it was Venkatamakhi’s grandson Muddu Venkatamakhi, who gave the nomenclature for the Mela Ragas, (Kanakambari and Phenadhyuti etc) in his Gitam called Raganga-Raga-Anukramanika-Gitam (found in Subbarama  Dikshitar’s  Sangitha Sampradaya Pradarsini, 1904).

Later, Govindacharya, the author of Sangraha Chudamani gave the nomenclature Kanakangi, Ratnangi etc. to the 72 Mela karta Ragas. These Melas had all the seven notes in the ascent (arohana) and in the descent (avarohana) as well. He has also given Lakshana-gitas and lakshana-slokas for many Janya Ragas.

Though the arohana and avarohana krama of a Raga does not tell us everything about the Raga, it provides the frame work on which it is built. Ragas like Sahana, Ahiri, Neelambari, Devagandhari and Yadhukula Kambhoji defy definition. But for the majority of the Ragas, the Krama helps.


When you look back the long and interesting history of Raga in Karnataka Sangita stretching from Matanga to the present-day, you find that the system has evolved through several stages. If Matanga defined the Raga and lent it a sense of identity, it was Ramamatya that activated the process of binding the Ragas into structured groups.  This was improved upon by Venkatamahin; and later perfected by Muddu Venkatamahin and Govindacharya. These series of concepts and their refinements have provided Karnataka Sangita a unique and a thorough theoretical foundation.


The voluminous  Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini by  Sri Subbarama Dikshitar (1839-1906) , the grandson of Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar , running into about 1700 pages is a source-book on Music of India , tracing the history of Music from Sarangadeva to the 20th century through a series of biographies of noteworthy musicians and music-scholars . It  also provides  exhaustive details on 72 Melas  as also tables of Ragas, Ragangas, Upanga-s, Bhashangas with their Murcchanas, Gamakas, in addition to details of the  Taalas.

The Mela system also travelled North.  Pandit  Shri Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936), a scholar and a musicologist, in his colossal work ‘Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati’ reorganized the Uttaradi or North Indian Music, mainly,  by adopting the concept of Mela system as expanded by Venkatamakhin (1660) and others  .

Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande Stamp

Bhatkhande also adopted the idea of Lakshana-geetas that Venkatamakhin and other scholars employed to describe the characteristics of a Raga. Bhatkhande arranged all the Ragas of the Uttaradi Sangita into ten basic groups called ‘Thaat’, based on their musical scales.  The Thaat arrangement, which is an important contribution to Indian musical theory, broadly corresponds with the Mela-karta system of Karnataka Sangita.

The ten basic Thaats (or musical scales or frameworks) according to the System evolved by Pandit VN Bhatkhande are (From Wikipedia):



[ It is said;Pundit Bhatkhande composed a Dhrupad (in Raga Purvi ; set to jhap tala)  in praise of Venkatamakhin and his  Chaturdandi Prakasika.

ab chatura dandi mata venkata sunave ||
dvadasa suran ke khata chakra banave || (ab chatura)
ra ga ra gi ra gu ri gi ri gu ru gu rachave ||
dha na dhi ni dha nu dhi ni dhi nu dhu nu manave || (ab chatura)
dva saptati mela prati madhyama so janita
raganga saba janaka ade kahave ||
aroha avaroha ke bheda ko sadha
bhashanga rupanga chatura upa jave || (ab chatura)

 Pundit Bhatkhande states in this composition that Venkatamakhin authored the work Chaturdandi Prakasika; and, that he modelled 12 chakras with the 12 tonal scale. He then goes on to state that Venkatamakhin  conceived of the different flavours of each of these positions (to constitute 16 swaras); he specifies three varieties of ‘ri’, ‘ga’, ‘dha’ and ‘ni’ and calls them out by name (ra, ri, ru, ga, gi, gu, dha, dhi, dhu, na, ni and nu). Bhatkhande then states that Venkatamakhin also explains the various combinatorial possibilities of ‘ra ga’, ‘ra gi’, ‘ra gu’, ‘ri gi’, ‘dha na’, ‘dha ni’, ‘dha nu’, ‘dhi ni’, ‘dhi nu’, ‘dhu nu’. In the sanchari, he states that Venkatamakhi conceived of the mathematical possibility of 72 families (melas) of ragangas (the janaka) raga-s taking into account the two madhyama possibilities (and the invariant Sa and Pa – not mentioned in the composition). Bhatkhande then states that Venkatamakhi spelled out (with authority and clarity) the murchanas (aroha-s and avaroha-s) of the various bhashanga-s and upanga-s that belonged to each family (raganga). The first and the last phrases of the composition contain the composer’s mudra (chapa) ‘chatura’. Bhatkhande adopted the pseudonym ‘Chatura pandit’ and all his compositions have the mudra ‘chatura’ built into them. This composition thus features two occurrences of the chapa. The dhatu and the matu of the composition blend extremely well and this dhrupad makes a powerful musical tribute to Venkatamakhin.

(Source  acknowledged with thanks :

[Please check here for a comparative study of Mela-kartas and Thaats - ]


The 72 Mela-kartas

Emmie Te Nijenhuis in her Indian Music: History and Structure explains the 72 Mela-kartas.

The 72  Mela-kartas are arranged in 12 series (Chakras) each having 6 Ragas. All are having the same tonic (Shuddha Sa) and fifth (Shuddha Pa). All the Mela-kartas in the Chakras from 1 to 6 have a perfect fourth (Shuddha Madhyama; abbreviated as Ma). And, the Mela-kartas in the Chakras numbering 7 to 12 have augmented fourth (Prati Madhyama; abbreviated as Mi). With respect to the other notes in the scale Chakras 7 to 12 duplicate Chakras 1 to 6 respectively.

For a list of the seventy-two Melakarta Ragas , classified under two broad categories (Shudda Madhyama and Prati Madhyama Ragas)  ; and,  enumerated under twelve Chakras , from Indu  (1) to Aditya (12) , please click here .

The name of each of the 12 chakra suggests its ordinal number as well.

:- Indu  stands for the moon, of which we have only one – hence it is the first chakra.(Eka Indu)

:-Nētra  means eyes, of which we have two – hence it is the second (Dve Neta)

:-Agni is the third chakra as it denotes the three divyagnis (fire, lightning and Sun).They could be the three Agnis viz. Aahavaneeyam, Anvwaaharyam & Gaarhapathyam. (Tri Agni)

:-Vēda  denoting four Vedas is the name of the fourth chakra (Chatus Chakra)

:-Bāa  comes fifth as it stands for the five bāṇaa of Manmatha (Pancha bana)

:-Rutu  is the sixth chakra standing for the 6 seasons of Hindu calendar(Shad Riru)

:-Rishi, meaning sage, is the seventh chakra representing the seven sages (Sapta Rishi

:-Vasu  stands for the eight vasus of Hinduism (Asta Vasu)

:-Brahma  comes next of which there are 9 (Nava Brahma)

:-Dishi The 10 directions, including akasha (sky) and patala (nether region), are represented by the tenth chakraDishi. (Dasha Dishi)

:- Rudra  Eleventh chakra  is Rudra of which there are eleven (Ekadash Rudra)

:- Aditya Twelfth comes Aditya  of which there are twelve (Dwadasha Aditya)

[Please do read Sri S Rajam’s most wonderful illustrations of the 12 Chakras and their 72 Melakarta-s.]

Each Chakra is determined by the lowest, middle or highest variety of the second (abr, Ra, Ri Ru) and third note (abr. Ga, Gi, Gu).

The six Ragas of each series are individually determined according to the lowest , middle and the highest variety of the sixth (abr. Dha, Dhi, Dhu) and seventh note (abr. Na, Ni, Nu).

In order to make a clear diction between the three varieties of notes –Ga, Dha and Ni, the vowels of these tone syllables are changed, a- indicating the lowest;  –i indicating the middle; and –u indicating the highest variety.

In short, the structure of the first (that is lower) tetrachord (purvanga) of a Raga is determined by its serial (chakra) number, while the structure of the second (the higher) tetrachord (uttaranga) is determined by the number of scale within the particular series (chakra) . Multiplying the serial (chakra) number (after having subtracted 1) by the number 6 and adding the number of the scale within the series, one arrives at the exact Mela (karta) number.


( Source : Raga Pravaham by Dr. Dhandapani and D. Pattammal)



The schemes of 72 Mela and Mela-karta employed a system of deriving the Mela-number by referring to the first two syllables of its name. This helped in easy tracking of a Mela from among the 72. The system of assigning a prefix number to each Mela was adopted from the ancient Katapayadi formula which classifies the letters of the Sanskrit alphabets in a specified manner.

Some scholars believe that the Great Grammarian Panini (5th century BCE) was the first to come up with the idea of using letters of the alphabet to represent numbers. And, that the Brahmi numerals were developed by using letters or syllables as numerals.

Hashing 1

But, it is not clear who introduced the practice of numbering the Melas by means of the Katapayadi prefixes. In the earlier references to Mela system (either by Sri Vidyaranya or Ramamatya or Pundarika Vittala) the prefixes were not mentioned. But, in the Appendix (Anubandha) to the Chatur-dandi-prakashika the Melas were already marked by Katapayadi prefixes.


According to the scheme, the consonants have numerals assigned as per the above table. All stand-alone vowels like a (अ) and  (ऋ) are assigned to zero. In case of a conjunct, consonants attached to a non-vowel will not be valueless. The only consonant standing with a vowel is ya (य). So the corresponding numeral for kya (क्या) will be 1. There is no way of representing Decimal separator in the system.

Under this naming scheme, the number of a Mela-karta (Janaka) Raga is obtained by decoding the first two letters using the Katapaya scheme; and reversing it. For instance; For Divyamani – Di=8; and Va=4, giving 84. And reversing that you get 48, which is its Mela number. Once you get the Mela number you get its notes too

[ For more on that please check :]

Melakarta  File by courtesy of Sri Basavarjtalwar at ]


 Please click on the figure for an enlarged view.

Please do read the scholarly work  A Karnatik Music Primer by Dr. Parthasarathy Sriram at

References and Sources:

I gratefully acknowledge

  1. Caturdandiprakasika of Venkatamakhi by Dr. N.Ramanathan
  2. The Anukramaikā Gīta in the SSP by Sumithra Vasudev
  3. Indian Music: History and Structure by Emmie Te Nijenhuis
  4. The “ka-Ta-pa-ya” scheme
  5. A Brief Overview of the Evolution of Indian Music

6. Collected writings on Indian Music .Vol 2  by Dr. V. Raghavan



Posted by on June 12, 2015 in Music, Sangita


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Ganapathi, the lord of the ganas

1.1. Everything that our senses can perceive and our mind can apprehend can be expressed in terms of categories. These might include our desires, our treasures, and all that we care for or try to avoid.  Hence categories, the Ganas, could be considered inevitable to our existence. The texts mention, all that can be counted and comprehended is Gana.

[ It is said; such categorization or analytical  investigation and examination (ānvīkṣikī) of issues which bring clarity into the intellectual aspects of man’s life help him to attain freedom (moksha) from delusions and confusions in life. The Arthasástra of Kautilya (Chapter II-  ṣection.1: Enumeration of the sciences) speaks of ānvīkṣikī– metaphysical speculation involving keen introspectionas being the most beneficial to the world – ‘leading to all kinds of knowledge, reliable means to accomplish all kinds of acts and receptacle of all kinds of virtues’.

tābhir dharma.arthau yad vidyāt tad vidyānāṃ vidyātvam // sāṃkhyaṃ yogo lokāyataṃ ca^ity ānvīkṣikī //dharma.adharmau trayyām artha.anarthau vārttāyāṃ naya.anayau daṇḍa.nītyāṃ bala.abale ca etāsāṃ hetubhir anvīkṣamāṇā lokasya upakaroti vyasane^abhyudaye ca buddhim avasthāpayati prajñā.vākya.kriyā.vaiśāradyaṃ ca karoti //]

1.2. The term Gana means a collection of things or the horde. The fundamental principle of classification through which the relation between different orders of things; and between macro and micro forms of existence can be understood is called Ganesha the ruler over all categories.

2. Ganapathi the ruler of all categories is identified with Divinity in its perceptible manifestation. For the followers of the Ganapathya sect he is the Supreme Divinity. He is placed above the Trinity (Tri murti).

3. Ganapathi stands for one of the basic symbolisms in the Indian thought, the identity of the macrocosm and the microcosm; or, in religious terms, man is in the image of God. That relation can be best expressed in terms of number (gana). Hence, number is seen as the common element of all forms.

4. 1. Ganapathi’s elephant head over man’s body symbolizes unity of the small being (micro) and the Great Being (macro). The term Gaja that normally means elephant is at times taken to signify “the origin as also the goal” (ga = goal; ja =origin). The Gaja is thus a symbol of the stage where the “un-manifest ends “and where “existence begins”. The man part of Ganapathi image is the manifest principle; and the un-manifest is that which is above.

4.2. In the world of appearances where opposites do not often coexist, man cannot be “Gaja”; but it can happen symbolically. Ganapathi Upanishad states “thou art That (tat tvam asi) ”.The text says the living being is the visible form of That, the supreme essence. Human existence, according to that Upanishad, is the coordination of the absolute and the relative; of That and Thou. True knowledge is the realization of unity.

The image of Ganapathi is the symbol that constantly reminds us of this apparently impossible identity. One should bow to Ganesha before one begins anything.

5.1. The Ganesha principle (tattva) transcends intellect. Yet, as in the case of other Indian deities, Ganesha too is represented through various symbols; mantras the sound representations; yantras the graphic representations; and the murtis icons or images.

5.2. The monosyllable AUM uttered at the beginning of every rite is said to be the sound image or the mantra representing Ganapathi. Its import “Thou art That” is symbolized by the unity in Ganesha image of the small and the Big.

5.3. The Swastika is also said to be the graphic image of Ganesha. Its multiple arms all emanate from the common central point, Bindu. But, each arm is bent away and does not aim towards the centre. It is perhaps meant to suggest that we cannot reach the Bindu, the basic unity, directly through outward manifestations.

There is also a diagram called Ganesha yantra, used mainly for ritual worship.Ganapathi is regarded the synthesis of all the five elements. The earth element is represented by a square; the water by circle; fire by triangle; air by half-moon; and space by Bindu (point). It is said all these features can be found in the form of Ganapathi.

There is a close relation between Yoga and Tantra; and Ganapathi figures prominently in both the streams. He is the presiding deity of the Muladhara Chakra. It is also said; his tusk is Om-kara; his belly the great space; the serpent around his belly the Kundalini enclosing all; his rat the Rajo-guna; which Ganapathi controls riding on it.

5.4. It is said, Ganesha is obese to suggest that all manifestation is contained in him; and he is not contained. His ears are like winnowing trays, throwing away the dust of the vice and virtue, retaining only the Reality that is beyond qualities. Ganesha has one tusk, the word One is said to be the symbol of illusion (maya) from which all duality springs forth. The broken tusk is the impeller of illusion. The goad (ankusha) in his hand is for taming ignorance, while the noose (pasha) is caution against bondage.

His ride, the mouse is essentially a stealer, one who takes away things to which people are attached .The greatest attachment one can have is “I-ness”. The ride works at the behest of its master, the remover of illusions.

6. Ganesha is the lord of wisdom; the patron of letters and of schools; he is the king of the elders (Jyesta raja); and he is the first among the greats and presides over the assembly of gods. He is Vinayaka,  the great leader. He is the lord (Vigneshwara) and the destroyer of obstacles. He is Gananatha the lord of all categories. He rules over the universal intellect (maha tattva) and the elements (tattva) derived from it.

 Siddhi the attainment and Ruddhi the prosperity are his consorts.

Ganapathi the ruler of all categories, I bow to you; you alone are the visible form of the principle. You are the creator; you alone are the sustainer; you alone are the destroyer; and you alone are unmistakably the Brahma, the essence of everything that exists, the true Self.

– Ganapathi Upanishad-

[Please also check Origins of Ganesha worship ]

The pictures are from internet

[ Note on significance 21 associated with Ganapathi

The association of number twenty-one with Ganapathi has many interpretations. The most common of such explanations is  that  twenty-one is the sum of five gross elements(bhuta) + five subtle existential  principles or vital airs (pancha prana) + 5 subtle organs of perception (jnanendriya) + 5 sense-organs of action (karmendriya) + mind; suggesting that Ganesha is the Lord presiding over all the elements of existence.

The other suggestions are from Tantra, as Ganesha is basically a Tantric deity. According to Tantra, Ganesha’s ‘true-name’ (nija –naama) that is the effective name by which he is invoked is the Bija ’Gam’; his other names being the popular ones by which the people of the world love to call him (laukika). The Tantra Schools rely on an ancient system of notation which assigns numerical value to each consonant of the Sanskrit alphabet , for the purposes of inscribing on and designing various yantras as also for offering interpretations on the structures of the chakras and other graphical presentations. Of those systems, the Katapayadi which took strong roots in Kerala is considered the most authentic.  That system is also in use in the South Indian classical music.

The  Katapayadi, in a way, anticipated the hashing technique of Computer Science which derives a number from a non-numeric key for indexing into a table. For more on that, please check the following link; and, if possible, refer to the fourth section of a scholarly book: The Eastern mysteries, an encyclopedic guide to the sacred languages by David Allen Hulse.

According to Katapayadi, the Bija “Gam” has a numeric value of three (Ga =3; the Anusvara the dot and Anunasika  the dot within a crescent placed over the letter having no numeric value). Ganesha is thus associated with the number three , which sometimes is expressed as :2+1.

After having invoked Ganesha with his Bija Gam, the worshipper salutes his Lord with the chant: Ganapathaye namaha. The numerical value of that chant , according to Katapayadi  is twenty-one : ( ga =   3; Na=  5; pa =1;ta =6; ye=1; na=0; and mha =5).Please check the table  posted below.

Thus, it appears ,  is Ganesha’s  association  with numbers three and twenty-one.

This is , as I understand it; I could be wrong.]

Katapayadi Tables




Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Speculation


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